Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Published:June 1st 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
"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 every 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.
Ok, so recently, I've read some really good books. I mean really good, and we'll talk about all of them in days to come but I just want to say that the ones I've read are ones that everyone has said you simply MUST read when exploring the YA genre. Not the latest new release, or upcoming title or what-not, but the ones that if you don't read them, you'll always be missing a little piece of yourself and you will never even know it. This is one of those books.
I'm utterly amazed at Ms. Ockler's skill. Her writing is sharp, witty, and her capacity for capturing the raw and abrasive nature of grief, majestic. This story is no picnic. Despite it's flippant title and seemingly harmless storyline of two girls playing a silly summer game, the story hurts from beginning to end. That said, it's not one to depress the hell out of you as in reading it, you heal along with the story.
Anna has loved Matt, her "best-friend-that's-a-boy" for years. Since her tenth birthday, she has blown out the candles on her cake with the same wish every time and this time, it came true. Matt kissed her. The love and romance that followed was all anyone could ever wish for. It was perfect, save for the fact that they have been keeping their relationship a secret from Matt's sister Frankie, Anna's best friend, until the time is right to break it to her that the trio has split into something more. But before they can bring their relationship to light, Matt dies and in the aftermath that follows, Anna can't bring herself to add any more emotion to a devastated friend and her family. The story is her struggle with Matt's loss, in secret, with no one ever knowing that she has lost the love of her life and it's absolutely heart breaking.
“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you’re doing, but they don’t really want to know. They seek affirmation that you’re okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it’s three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that’s about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).”
You probably remember this past September when that idiot made his attack on Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, he added Twenty Boy Summer to his challenge list for having "drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex". Which in hindsight, worked out perfectly for thinking members of the populous and equaled heightened press for these "banned" books, increasing the number of people reading them. It's true, boys and sex are topics of conversation between the two teenage girls in the book. There is a party where alcohol is served and yes, there is a very mellow sex scene involving two responsible people practicing safe sex. Dear Lord in heaven someone do something now! These things are so alien and unheard of that they must be evil! Unless you live under a rock, this very thing has gone on longer than all of us combined (and I'm quite old so the number adds up quick) and you might as well get upset at a six year old being ecstatic over getting a puppy, the thrill that comes with riding a roller coaster, people crying at weddings or taking pride in getting a diploma- people of almost any age, are gonna do it :). These are things that just are and Ockler manages to tackle it expertly. For some reason, sex scenes in YA are still considered taboo by those too prudish (or just not proficient enough) to write it and I'm rather proud of her, not only for writing it, but for writing it in the context in which it should be taken.
“The whole idea of losing one’s virginity is kind of ridiculous. To lose something implies carelessness. A mistake that you can fix simply by recovering the lost object, like your cell phone or your glasses. Virginity is more like shedding something that losing it. As in, “Don’t worry, Mom. You can call off the helicopters and police dogs. Turns out- get this- I didn’t actually lose my virginity. I just cast it off somewhere between here and Monterey. Can you believe it? It could be anywhere by now, what with all that wind.”
I imagine some kids happening upon the cast-off virginity on the shore. They’d have to close down the beach and put up a sign. Danger! Wild virginity found here! Swim at your own risk!”
I'll read this book again. And again.