Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[Review] Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publication: June 2009, paperback
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Review Copy: Purchased
Pages: 290 
Age group: 16+, sexual and drug content
My Rating:

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.
My thoughts: 

The story:

In Twenty Boy Summer, Anna and Frankie have recently been met with an unfortunate death. Frankie's brother, Matt. And both girls, and their parents, are dealing with the tragedy in their own ways. Anna writes letters in her super-secret notebook, stealing away the one thing she hasn't even told Frankie before about what the two, Anna and Matt, had become before his untimely demise. And Frankie is doing things she shouldn't be doing.
     The Perino family have planned a trip for an annual family Summer vacation. This will be the first time they've gone since . . . Determined to lock away the past and push back painful memories, don't they know that things have a way of blooming to the surface?
     Then there is Frankie's proposition: twenty boys this summer. But Anna's still getting over Matt, who she's been in love with for ever.

The review:

Twenty Boy Summer is the perfect summer read. It's a fun and gripping book that brought my mind to the beach. In the thick of things, it just let me unwind and take a step back.

Ockler's debut novel goes far deeper than what I thought it would. There is actual substance in the story that develops in Twenty Boy Summer. Not to mention it addresses very real topics--love, friendship and loss, death and then grieving, family, secrets, running away, drugs, etc. As with other books that deal with death and grief, I was able to sympathise with the thoughts of all those involved with Matt's death. It seemed as though Ockler has researched the topic thoroughly, or undergone said tragedy herself.

Anna is loyal, stubborn and intelligent. I wish there'd been a bit of her past without Matt, but her friendships and family are what colours her world, what we are revealed of her. Frankie is so many things: insecure, vulnerable, fun-loving, adventurous, rebellious, but also hurt and scared and jealous. Without even knowing it, I grew to really like Frankie. She's hot-headed and (also) stubborn, but at her core, she's a girl who has lost her big brother, who is never coming back. The relationship these two girls share is unbreakable, until secrets burble to the surface. Then there are the guys. If you're looking for guys to fall in love with, you won't find them here. At least, not as many as the title would suggest. To me, only two guys would stand out: Matt, and Anna's summertime romance, Sam. But even so, they were both memorable (I'm thinking Matt should take a spot on my Top 5 crushable guys).

Her writing style is simple, but it so suits Anna's voice. The pacing is sometimes a bit jagged, but in among the intricately placed "big" words used (Anna is a big reader :)), I got used to it. The story moves at a slow pace, but upon looking back, it feels like a lot happened over those three weeks of their holidays.

I think I expected to like this one a little bit more than I did. I still really enjoyed it. It's thought-provoking and beautiful and heart-breaking. It's just that I never got so into it that I lost track of time, or just kept on reading. That said, there are so many great scenes in this novel; I would read it just for those moments. And yes--the cover actually plays an important part in the novel! Part of just some of the few amazing scenes that must be read.


"Sometimes you gotta just take things for what they are and appreciate them, not try to label it or explain it. Explanations take the mystery out of it, you know?"

"Sometimes I think we all feel guilty for being happy, and as soon as we catch ourselves acting like everything is okay, someone remembers it's not."

"Like the beach glass you guys always brought me. Sometimes I dump it out on my desk and press my ear to the pieces, trying to hear the ocean. Trying to hear you. " 


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