A Review of Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer

When I really want to depress myself, I think about the stupid and unkind things I did as a teenager—like the time I ditched my date at a party and drove off with a guy I was madly crushing on. To this day, I feel guilty about behaving so badly. There’s just no way to dress this up—what I did wasn’t nice.

I suspect a lot of us have regrets over things we did or didn’t do and wish we could go back and rewrite parts of our history. In Second Chance Summer, seventeen-year-old Taylor gets that chance. With her dad terminally ill, her family opts to spend one final summer together at their old lake house. It’s been five years since they were last there, and Taylor dreads running into Henry, her first-ever boyfriend, and Lucy, her former best friend. Lucy had had a crush on Taylor’s new boyfriend and was furious when she discovered Taylor and Henry had gotten together. Unable to handle the situation, then twelve-year-old Taylor had abruptly left with no explanation or apology to either of them.

Not only is Taylor stressing about running into Henry and Lucy, but she wonders how her family will survive being together in close quarters after years of going in different directions. Her attorney dad has always worked long hours on his cases, her brilliant older brother has been busily attending programs for gifted students, and her younger sister is following in their mom’s footsteps as a serious ballet dancer.

And then there is the pain of watching her dad’s health spiral downward, knowing that in a few weeks, he’ll be gone for good. And yet, in spite of, or perhaps because of, these difficult circumstances, Taylor’s family rediscovers their closeness, and Taylor gets to know and appreciate her father even more in their twice-weekly breakfasts at a local diner.

During the toughest summer of her life, Taylor discovers that she doesn’t have to do her usual thing of running away when situations get hard to handle. Instead, she can face them. She deals with Henry and Lucy’s initial animosity toward her, apologizes, and ultimately rekindles her relationships with the boy she’s always loved and the best friend she’s ever had.

This is a beautifully written novel that offers hope and healing in the midst of the devastating loss of a parent. We can’t help but root for Taylor as she comes into her own and gets a second chance to embrace rather than flee from the special people in her life.

By Morgan Matson
468 pp. Simon & Schuster, 2012

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