Monday, January 3, 2011

A Summer You Will Never Forget

Twenty Boy Summer
Covers really can be deceiving. Titles are no better. When you look at this cover, what do you think is going to happen? Girl seeks boys, girl finds one boy, boy changes girl, life continues happily? Boy are you wrong. Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer has more going on than you might think given such a deceptive title...

Anna, Matt, and Frankie were best friends. Of course, Frankie (Francesca) was Matt's little sister and Anna was in love with Matt. But that all changed when Matt professed his love for Anna at her birthday party. He asked her to keep their love a secret until he and Frankie went away with their parents for the summer so he could explain the relationship properly. Unfortunately, they never got that far, as after a month of hiding their relationship, the day before Matt and Frankie were to leave for Zanzibar Bay, the three of them decided to go for ice cream. On the way home, a car accident leaves Anna and Frankie shattered emotionally and Matt gone forever.

Now it is a year later and Frankie's parents decide they have to go back to Zanzibar Bay. Still grieving for the loss of Matt, they pack up with Anna in tow and head for the beach. Before they leave, Frankie convinces Anna to make a pact to hook at least twenty boys in their three weeks at the beach. Since the loss of Matt, Frankie has changed to someone Anna barely recognizes. Although she can only think of Matt and the only secret she every kept from Frankie, she agrees to the pact just to make things better with Frankie, and relieve a little guilt.

Once on the beach, Anna meets one boy she can't stop thinking about. Frankie continues on her quest, but Anna is torn between really liking this local surfer boy and feeling like she has betrayed her first love, Matt. When Frankie reads Anna's journal and learns of her relationship with Matt, it seems like nothing will ever bring the friends back to the way they were before the accident.

This book blew me away. The grief Anna, Frankie, and Frankie's parents suffer is so real, almost palpable. When Frankie's mother admits to Anna she knows the relationship with Matt was more than friends, you can almost feel the ache in Anna's heart. When the family arrives at their beach house, the pain will course through your body. You can see them grieve. You can feel them hurt. Ockler has delivered a story that will make you suffer and survive right along with the characters. It also shows the difference in how people grieve, which is an important lesson for people to learn. Anna turns within herself and refuses to open up. Frankie opens up to everyone just to fill the void. Frankie's mother and father are barely speaking or holding themselves together. This vacation to Zanzibar Bay was a life journey the reader should feel both privileged and saddened to journey down.

The writing is fairly simple, but this story really deals with mature situations. There is a decent amount of sex as Frankie tries to find solace anywhere she can get it, but nothing is graphic. Instead, it is usually just implied. The grief and loss is handled beautifully, but is a very heavy subject that might be too much for a student who has suffered any great loss recently. The beauty of this story is it will hook a girl who doesn't usually read serious stories with its lure of fun and beaches, but it will deliver lessons they never saw coming. If you give this book a chance, I promise you will never be the same.

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