Under the Summer Sun

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Release Date: May 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 480 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover

Sum It Up
Taylor Edwards isn't really looking forward to this summer. In fact, she kind of wishes she could just run away. Her family received devastating news about her dad's health, and her parents have decided that the family will spend one last summer together at their lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

It's been years since they last visited. Life just got in the way. Not that Taylor's complaining - avoiding the lake allowed her to forgot about the mess she left the last time she was there.

Returning forces Taylor to face the people she left behind, including her former best friend and childhood boyfriend. It's also the place where she'll have to come terms with the future that she wishes weren't true.

As time runs out, Taylor realizes that sometimes you do get a second chance - with family, friends and love.

By Its Cover: Peachy Summer Delight
I love this cover in person because the title has this cool shimmery look and the peachy colors are just so perfect for the summer. I think I might like it better without the girl - just a view of the lake, to be honest - but that's a minor quibble.

Amen, Sister Friend: Runaway Girl
Taylor wants to be safe. She doesn't want to face her problems - she wants to run away from them. Her fear causes her to pull back from family, friends and relationships. There was something so relatable about this aspect of her personality. Even if that's not how you deal with problems in life, there have likely been moments when you wanted to.

The progression of her relationship with her father was one of my favorite things about Taylor and this novel. I love how she talked/thought about him because he was a specific character... but, at the same time, it was like he could be my father. I don't know how Matson did it, but it's like she created a completely fleshed out character that (even though he really wasn't similar to my dad) made me feel like he could have been. Does that even make sense? I think it was in the way Taylor related to her dad and thought about their relationship. Her fear and grief felt like it could have been my own.

Literary Love: Sweet but Unnecessary 
Henry. Hello swoony boy. Let's just say that I'd like a Fourth of July the likes of which you planned for Taylor. And goodness, I'm so glad you two were childhood friends (and sweethearts). I loved reading about a relationship that developed from years of knowing one another.

Now, on one hand, I really enjoyed the love story. At the same time, I felt that the love story was the one thing that could have been taken away from the book. I understand why it was in there, and it was a great part of the story... But this book could have focused solely on Taylor's relationship with her family members and it would have been just as good. What I loved about this book wasn't the love story - it was the family relationships. Those are the parts that stayed in my mind long after I'd finished this book.

Word Nerd: The Silent Cry
I don't cry very often, so it's very rare for me to cry when I'm reading a book. It's not that I don't get attached to the characters - it's just that I'm not usually moved to tears. There is usually a tiny piece of my brain that knows it's fiction. When I told Magan at Rather Be Reading that I bought this book (after reading her incredible review), she asked if I had tissues handy. I told her I was taking my chances because it was highly unlikely that I'd cry. I just don't cry in books.

Oh the error of my ways... I read the last bit of this and was definitely doing the silent cry. I just couldn't help it.

How is this relevant to the writing section of this review? Because in someone else's hands (words?) I probably wouldn't have been in tears. It was the way Matson wrote about the family handling their father's illness that felt so relatable. I wasn't crying because their father was sick... I was crying because I could imagine that it was my dad. During the ending, this book moved beyond a "fictional story about a family." It made me emotional because the character's emotions felt so relatable, so real, that I could imagine they were my own and that it was my father who was sick. And that just tore me up.

I'd also like to note that this book is by no means dark or depressing. Yes, it's sad, but it's more of a tender and loving kind of sad that makes you feel so much more appreciative of your family. The book, for the most part, felt so warm and cozy. It made me want to wrap my arms around my family and never let go.

Extra, Extra: Lake House
My husband's grandparents live on the lake, and it is one of my favorites places to visit. There's just something about a lake house that seems so relaxed and unplugged from the world around you. At the beach, you're usually doing other things (like going out to eat and shopping). But at the lake, you're usually just there. And for a family facing one of the worst things imaginable, it felt so right that they'd steal away to the lake for their final days together.

So Quotable
"You said you didn't want to waste your time on people who aren't going to matter," I said, and he nodded. "But how do you know they're not going to matter? Unless you give it a shot?"

"The thing is that people only get hurt - really hurt - when they're trying to play it safe. That's when people get injured, when they pull back at the last second because they're scared. They hurt themselves and other people."

Bottom Line: You'll Be in My Heart
It's almost 500 pages, and I read it one day. I read it while waiting on my blinds to get cut in Lowe's. I read it while in the car when my husband was driving. I tried to read it while folding laundry. I read it in the bath and didn't get out until the water was freezing cold and there were still tears running down my face. It was lovely, and I was so thankful to have read it. It was one of those books that breaks your heart but finds a home there, too.


  1. Aw, Hannah! I absolutely loved this book and I loved your review of it! Such a good point you made about the dad because he felt like mine too even though he is NOTHING like mine. I think that's what makes it even more hard hitting. I agree about the romance bit, I enjoyed it a lot but the strength for me was the family relationships. Oh, this book was wonderful.

    1. It really was wonderful! I'm glad you agree with me that the family relationship was really the one that stood out :) AND I love that the dad reminded you of your dad - I'm convinced that's what made it so emotional!

  2. This book really was something else. I think I may have liked it more than Amy & Roger's which is saying something. I loved how it was romantic but also about a family (and the siblings) really coming together. I cried too. Right by the pool. Luckily no one was around but it was an ugly cry I could not control. Matson is a great writer, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

    1. I really enjoyed Amy & Roger's, but this one definitely stole my heart! It was just such a wonderful read. Sweet and touching - and I still can't believe I cried! Glad no one was around at the pool to see your ugly cry :)

  3. " I loved reading about a relationship that developed from years of knowing one another."

    Amen to that! I wish more relationships in YA were like this, instead of that whole insta-love things. I like to see depth and development in my relationships, and not just infatuation.

    1. I KNOW! I really do wish more relationships where like this in YA and just books in general. Insta-love is probably my biggest pet peeve in books, and it's something I notice all too often. I love finding gems like this where it's actually built on a friendship first!

  4. YEEEEEEEEES. I am beyond (BEYOND) happy that you loved this. I can't even begin to express my love for this book. I mean words just don't seem to do it justice. Morgan Matson really outdid herself. I loved it! I'm so behind on commenting since I've been gone a lot this month, but I saw you reviewed this in my google reader and was like... OH HELLO, SCS review! :)

    1. Haha love that you saw SCS in your reader and decided to visit right away! I'm SO glad you recommended this so highly! I would have been interested in it anyway, but it would have taken me a long time to get around to it. So glad you convinced me I needed to read it right away :) I CANNOT WAIT to see what else Morgan Matson writes :)

  5. I just read this one earlier in the week and LOVED it. You're right -- it's not a depressing book by any means, but one of those meaningful sad books, with a situation that could very well hit close to home one day. It was so touching and I found myself BAWLING during the last part of it. I adored all of the relationships and loved that there was some actual meat to the story, not just "girl goes to beach, rekindles friendship and falls in love." There was a lot of emotions going on and I loved every second of it. Morgan Matson is awesome. Definitely on my must-buy list now!

    Great review!


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