“Silence is a protective coating over pain.”
The Sinclairs are always perfect. No matter what happens, they are a perfect, beautiful family. Nothing is ever wrong, even when the opposite is true. Problems just don’t exist…not for them. They believe that strength comes from burying issues and not dwelling on them. That having feelings makes a person weak. They have turned living in ignorance into an art form, and are content with such. But, is that really possible? Is that really the healthy way to live your life? There comes a point when you can no longer bury your pain. What happens then?
In E. Lockhart’s novel, We Were Liars, Cadence returns to Beechwood Island for the summer after a season’s absence due to debilitating migraines. Having no memory of the accident from summer fifteen (she is now seventeen), Cadence hopes that being around the Liars – Gat and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren – will enable her to learn the truth about what happened. There is only one thing standing in her way. The Sinclairs. Cadence is a Sinclair, and the Sinclairs have no problems. When everyone is refusing to talk about the accident, will Cadence stay in the state of not-knowing forever, or will coming back to Beechwood Island be the key to unlocking the memories that her mind (and everyone else) has tried hard to keep buried.
“Sometimes I wonder if reality splits…[if] there are parallel universes in which different events happen to the same people. An alternate choice has been made, or an accident has turned out differently. Everyone has duplicates of themselves in these other worlds. Different selves with different lives, different luck.”
“They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person.”
– E. Lockhart, We Were Liars
Every so often something comes along that really tugs at my heart, and Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer is one of those novels. Categorized as young adult fiction – perhaps because the protagonist is a teenager – the novel follows Taylor alternating narratives between the present day and events that happened five years in the past.
What would you do if a loved one was dying and you could do nothing to stop it? Would you run away from it, or would you have the strength to face it head-on? In Second Chance Summer, we see a family that appears normal on the surface, but underneath is struggling just to make it through each day.
On Taylor’s birthday, her parents sit her and her siblings down, and inform them that their father has just been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with only four months left to live. The family decides to go back to their summer lake house in the Poconos – which they’ve rented out for the past five summers – to have one last summer together and bond as a family while they still can; something that none of them are used to doing, as they are all closed off and rarely speak about their emotions with one another. Taylor, in particular, has a habit of running away from things that frighten her, love, friendship, anything emotional. Five years ago, she ran away from the lake house and the two people that she was closest to in the world. Will Taylor be able to face her past and her father’s rapidly deteriorating health, or will she do the one thing that is most natural to her? Will she run away?
Second Chance Summer is about many things, but I think the most prominent theme is time and how it runs out. Without warning. You can’t run away from time any more than you can run away from pain or heartache or the possibility of falling in love. Time doesn’t wait until you’re ready, it keeps moving, ticking away the hours. In one way or another, we are all guilty of running away from something or someone, but, like Taylor realizes in the novel, there are some things that, no matter what you do, you just cannot run away from. You have to stand still. And, by choosing to face it, you will become stronger.
If you’re looking for a novel that will grip you in a new way, then you should pick up Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Published in 2007, the novel tells the story of Hannah Baker, only, she’s not your ordinary main character because Hannah Baker is already dead, having committed suicide a few weeks before the novel takes place. Even though Hannah is technically dead, she is very much alive throughout the novel, by way of cassette tapes that she recorded prior to committing suicide. Those tapes, containing the thirteen reasons why she chose to kill herself are mailed to students from her school – ones that each make up a reason. The other main character is Clay Jensen. The story takes place entirely in one night, while Clay listens to the tapes and relives the events with Hannah, some that he had known about, but most that he had not, while desperately trying to figure out where he fits in, and who already knows about him.
Although many of Hannah’s reasons seem to be minute and not reason why someone would choose to end their own life, you can feel the events and reasons adding up in her head and you witness her point of no return. Told in a dual narration between Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s present – his reaction to the tapes and the journey he goes on – it is definitely unique. Hannah and Clay’s stories are going on simultaneously, and the only way to determine who is narrating is by the typeface: if it’s italic or normal.
This is really a book that any parent, teacher or librarian should read. Also, any teenager who is having a hard time in school, or is thinking about committing suicide, because I feel like this book can really help save people. It can help those in pain to realize that their thoughts aren’t normal, and that they need to reach out for help before it is too late. Teenage suicide is preventable.