I thought going into this that the story would mostly be about Taylor’s second chance at building back up her relationship with Henry, but the meaning of a second chance summer ended up being so much more than something so trivial and it really tore up my heart.
Not to ramble on with this review, but I’ve noticed that a lot of Morgan Matson’s earlier books have a lot more meaning to them and focus on deeper issues than some of the contemporaries I’ve read in the latter part of the 2010s, her last release included, and while I wish that I’d read a story like this years ago, I’m still happy to read it now. Because what it tells me is that Matson’s stories have such a timelessness to them, focusing on deep, universal themes and not wholly using the current times as a main focus of the plot, showing how these books can be read at any time. And the theme of second chances, something I personally love to read about, was found in so many different ways in this story and kind of teaches the reader that there’s always a second chance even when you think it might not be there anymore.
For Taylor’s character, one of her defining traits was how she would always run from her problems, using escapism as somewhat of a coping mechanism, and that’s a thing I felt like I related to. But a lot of her second chance summer was learning to deal with the hard things she’s facing and not running away from her problems, which got her in hotter water then she was in to begin with. But I don’t think Taylor would have addressed this flaw in her personality if she didn’t find these second chances with her old friends and her family. She needed to reconcile with Lucy and address what she did to both her and Henry to understand how running from her problems doesn’t help anyone. I liked watching her learn to wait things out, to stick with something even when it was hard and to stop running. It was good development and made Taylor a wonderful character to relate to.
But the biggest second chance of the story was Taylor’s relationship with her dad, who was beginning to die from cancer. There were a lot of instances were Taylor would comment on her relationship with her family, how she always felt ordinary compared to her siblings and never felt close to her parents, but her dad spent a lot of time with just Taylor, making sure she got the attention she really craved, and in turn she had a second chance of building a lasting relationship before it was too late. This relationship was, in my opinion, the real focal point of the story and it’s the one that’ll make the reader the most emotional. I loved reading about Taylor finding something with her dad and learning how it’s never too late to build a relationship with someone, even if you think it is.
I really love the way Matson is able to craft such a fun, summer read but weave such meaningful themes throughout and constantly surprise the reader with elements they weren’t expecting. I laughed, I cried, but I mostly learned a lot. This might be Matson’s best story.
Sandwiched between two exceptional siblings, Taylor Edwards never felt like she stood out—except for her history of running away when things get too complicated. Then her dad receives unexpected, terrible news, and the family makes the last-minute decision to spend the summer together in the cramped quarters at their old lake house.
Taylor hasn’t been to the summerhouse since she was twelve, and she definitely never planned on going back. Up at the lake she is confronted with people she thought she had left behind, like her former best friend Lucy, and Henry Crosby, her first crush, who’s all grown up…and a lot cuter. Suddenly Taylor is surrounded by memories she’d rather leave in the past—but she can’t run away this time.
As the days lying on the beach pass into nights gazing at the stars, Taylor realizes she has a second chance—with friends, with family, maybe even with love. But she knows that once the summer ends, there is no way to recapture what she stands to lose. From Morgan Matson, the PW Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, this is a remarkable new novel about hope in the face of heartbreaking grief.