Monday, May 28, 2012

Sweet Summertime Reads: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

This review is part of the SWEET SUMMERTIME READS feature hosted by myself, Fiction Folio, & Rather Be Reading.  Be sure to check out the participating blogs for more sweet summertime reading recommendations & summer-fun bookish posts.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Published: May 8, 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Received: Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Taylor’s family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it’s stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love. {}

In the back of my mind a little voice tells me to be careful when reading a book that involves a parent dying from cancer.  Especially when it's a story that is heavily focused around the inevitable.  This little voice stems from my own personal experiences to losing my mother to cancer.  Though it was almost 9 years ago that it happened, anything can bring me back to that moment like it occurred just yesterday -- even a story as beautifully written as Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer.

Taylor and her family have just been told the shattering news that their father has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  There is nothing left for them to do, but wait and endure these last precious moments before he takes his last breath.  Her father decides to pack up the family and visit their summer lake house, together as a family, one last time.  The idea of spending their last few months as whole is bittersweet for Taylor, her mother, her older brother Warren, and younger sister Gelsey.  The idea of spending the summer at their family lake house also brings back unpleasant memories for Taylor -- it's the scene she escaped 5 years ago, leaving her first true love brokenhearted, Henry.  This story is focused on second chances.  What it means to face your fears, when you feel that you have no ounce of courage left.

The relationship between Taylor and Henry, slowly regaining their trust in each other, and building up to be an epic romance was a delightful balance to the pressing news that everyone was anticipating as the summer came to a close.  The moments the family got to share as a whole, the memories that would last forever in their hearts, were some of the best scenes to witness on page.  As someone who truly understands just how precious those moments are, it made me happy to learn that this family was taking advantage of what time they had left together.

Morgan Matson did a brilliant job of setting the scene, opening the reader up to this gorgeous landscape of pine trees, rippling blue waters, and an endless blanket of stars above.  The quaint town that inhabited this lake side retreat came alive in all it's characters, and their individual roles in this story.  The slow build up was a relief as well.  Knowing how the story would end, it gave the reader time to cherish these last precious moments as Taylor and her family were.  The soft balance of young love gave an unexpected contrast to the heavier side of watching someone slowly drift away.

There were quite a few moments, especially at the end that hit a little too close to my heart.  Watching your parent struggle with those low, raspy breaths in the middle of the still, quiet night.  Not saying goodbye, but "see you later" and how important those few words can mean.  The moment your life changes forever from a before to an after.  Reading can be very therapeutic; perhaps it's why I choose to ignore that little voice in the back of my head and push through anyway.

The pages of my book are littered with sticky notes, to mark the passages that I knew held meaning to me. This one in particular stood out, in such a beautifully broken way:

"It wasn't until now, when every day I had with my father was suddenly numbered, that I realized just how precious they had been. A thousand moments that I had just take for granted -- mostly because I had assumed that there would be a thousand more."

Though this book was hard to swallow at times, it's a story I feel that everyone should read.  The beauty of witnessing a family's last days with their loved one is something I never thought could be explained, or retold, without experiencing yourself.  I feel that Morgan Matson has done a beautiful job of doing just that.  It struck my heart on such a personal level, and for that I am thankful for reading her words.


  1. I agree with your review. I cried so much reading this book. My parents are both alive (thankfully!) but I can imagine what it would be like to lose one of them. So many emotions in this book.

    Great review of an excellent book. <3

  2. I have no doubt this book will leave me a teary mess, but I love Morgan Matson's writing and I loved the sample of this I read on my Kindle. I really do need to order it. It needs to be one of the books I read this summer.

  3. I didn't know this book dealt with cancer. It isn't a subject I read too much on, but I love Matson's writing.

  4. It sounds like it's going to be a really great book, I loved Amy and Roger and I hope I'll like this one too.
    Thanks for the review!

  5. <3333 I LOVED this book, and I LOVE your review. The balance between Taylor and Henry slowly repairing their relationship and Taylor and her family saying "see you later" was so lovely.

  6. Ginger - this is such a touching review and so beautifully written, particularly when you say this: The moment your life changes forever from a before to an after.

    I would think this book would be difficult to read regardless, but you're right, reading can be so therapeutic. I'm glad you were able to enjoy it, though.

  7. YES times a million and a half to this book. It's so incredibly beautiful. I am a Morgan Matson fan for life. Re-reading the quote you shared made me tear up again. THIS BOOK. I love it so much. Great review, G!

  8. Wow, this sounds great. I have it on my shelf, but I haven't heard much about it so I was a little nervous about reading it. But now I'm eager to pick it up and start reading. Lovely review. :)

  9. I just bought the author's first book, and plan on reading that before getting to this book. I love a good emotional review, and it sounds like this book really meant a lot to you, because of what you've been through. I think it's wonderful that you still read this one though. Reading is also therapeutic for me too. =) Lovely review! I can't wait to start this one now!

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

  10. I need to read this book immediately. It sounds like such a gut-wrenching yet beautifully written story and if say it's good, I know it's good :)

  11. This sounds really amazing. I can't wait to pick it up. Thanks for the recommendation and for such a great review :)

  12. This is an absolutely beautiful review. Really. It gave me goosebumps.

    I can't wait to read SCS on my trip, and I know I'll be thinking about your review when I do.

  13. Such a great review. I have not read this yet but it sounds extremely sad. I am sure I will cry some time through it. It is good to hear it was a beautifully written story. Thank you for the great review.

  14. Wow, what a powerful review. I've read Morgan's first book and remember enjoying and appreciating it, but for some reason she's been under my radar since then. I now look even more forward to finally read this.

  15. EEEEE I don't know if I can do this book right now. You know I love me some Morgan Matson but I am already in a fragile emotional state about being mom-less for the wedding so I don't know that I can deal with a book that sounds like it hits so close to home watching someone pass away from cancer. EEEE. I need a pep talk if I should do this!

  16. Oh, this one was so sad, but those last fifty pages or so were just so beautiful. I only wish that the book had focused more on Taylor's relationship with her dad and less on the friendship/romance side of things. But still, sob!

  17. Gosh, this book sounds absolutely beautiful. It definitely sounds like it deserves to be read.

  18. I think this is one of the best reviews I've read of yours, Ginger. Mainly because I know how difficult it is for you to read books like this, and how close to home it really hits. I've been jonesing for Second Chance Summer since Magan reviewed it on RatherBeReading, and your review just convinced me to go buy it this weekend.

    Big hugs for you, girl <333


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