After reading and falling in love with Amy&Roger's Epic Detour, I was definitely in the mood for more of Morgan Matson's writing. Amy and Roger managed to make me both laugh and cry and after reading the synopsis and some reviews for Second Chance Summer, I had a feeling I could expect the same.
The Edwards family hasn't been a very close-knit unit for years. For the past five years, they have spent the summers in Connecticut, the kids participating in their own activities, the father working and the mother spending time at the club playing tennis. When the father of the family is given bad news from the doctors - only about 4 more months to live - the family drives to their old summer house at Pocono Mountains in order to spend one more summer together.
Taylor Edwards is the middle child and not book smart like her big brother or talented dancer like her little sister. For years she has felt like she doesn't really fit in ad comes face to face with the problem again once she tries to figure out what to do during the summer. Her brother is already prepping for college and her sister is taking tennis lessons and keeping up with her dance practices. When Taylor ends up spending most of her time just wandering around the house and keeping her eye on her father, her father makes her to apply for a job at the beach. She gets the job and on her first day encounters someone from her past, someone she left behind without saying a word - her ex-best friend Lucy.
Lucy is not the only one who Taylor left behind - there's also Henry, her first boyfriend. Now her neighbor, Taylor notices that the last give years have been good to Henry - he has got much cuter than he was before. Taylor knows that it is inevitable that she has to see both Lucy and Henry, but is there a possibility that they could give her a second chance?
The words "one last summer" in the synopsis pretty much give it away - the father is going to die. I'd been wanting to read this book since it was published, but due to personal reasons, I am very wary with books that deal with death/dying fathers. Knowing that it was coming, I had time to prepare myself for the devastation, just like the characters in this book. I loved how this was mostly story about Taylor getting a second chance with her father - she has been close to him always, but during the summer she realizes that does not know that much about him. With the time that she still has with him, she makes sure that she gets as much information as possible, making sure that when she has to say goodbye to her father, she is saying goodbye to someone she knew as well as possible.
Taylor is such a real and honest character. She is used to running away when she's faced with problems and situations she is not comfortable with, but once her father gets sick, she realizes that she has nowhere to run. Even if she would leave, the problems would follow her. She has to deal with the illness of her father and once she gets to Poconos, she realizes that she finally also has a chance to deal with her past - to ask for forgiveness from those she has hurt and left behind. It was so easy to identify with Taylor, to feel for her, to wish for the best for her.
Both Henry and Lucy are such wonderful side-characters. Henry is cute, honest, caring and romantic. Lucy is strong, funny and a wonderful friend. I also really loved the family dynamics - the relationships between the siblings and especially between Taylor and her father.
Second Chance Summer was such an emotional read and one that I definitely want to reread at some point. It hit right home and I am not even embarrassed to admit that I cried through the last 10% or so. It was so easy to connect with these characters and the situation they are in and to feel for them. And I have to give bonus points for the appearance of some characters from Matson's previous writing. ;)