Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster
My copy: Secondhand copy
Taylor Edwards’ family aren’t close but when they receive some life-changing news they decide to get to know each other again, spending one last summer together at their old lake house.
But Taylor is faced with the past she ran away from. Her former summer best friend is still living across the lake and still as mad with Taylor as she was five years ago, and her first boyfriend has moved in next door . . . but he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve. Can one summer be enough time to get a second chance – with family, friends, and love?
This young adult novel is set over one summer, with the Edward family packing their bags and spending summer at their lake house. The Edwards are quite a strange bunch and I found it hard to relate to any of them or really care about them. The dad is obsessed with work, brother Warren is a total nerd, sister Gelsey is a brat and the mum has barely any part to play at all. While this was clearly deliberate by the author, it did mean that I didn’t connect with them at all and found myself actively disliking them in the main. They had come to the beach house for the summer to spend some quality time together, yet they never spend any time together as a family, with all of them disappearing to do their own thing. It never quite rang true for me. Also our narrator Taylor is hard to like at times as she comes across as quite cold and unemotional, although I did warm to her as the book progressed.
Throughout the book we get hints about what happened five years ago, when Taylor was 12, that broke apart her friendships with Lucy and Henry. There were even a few flashbacks to help the reader along. I wasn’t sure how convincing I found these events to be, bearing in mind the characters were only 12 at the time – it seemed that they were a bit too young to experience what they did, although perhaps this is me being naïve.
It did take me a while to really get into this book. I found the start a bit slow and often repetitive, and I frequently felt that not much was really happening. But I really liked the setting of the book, and I could picture the lake house and the beach snackbar where Taylor worked. Some of the scenes between Taylor and her dad were touching, and these sections really helped me to warm to Taylor and relate to her a bit more.
I found the book picked up towards the end, and I did shed a tear at the end too. I liked some of the friendships between Taylor and her old friend Lucy, but the romance with Henry was predictable and it just didn’t quite do it for me. So mixed feelings overall, but still a well-written summer read.