Friday, May 3, 2013

"When you say Matt's name, you have the same look in your eyes that he'd get whenever he'd say yours.”

Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler
290 Pages
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Summary: While Frankie and Anna are mourning the loss of Frankie’s brother, Matt, a bet is made that Anna can meet twenty boys during their upcoming vacation, and one will undoubtedly be her first real boyfriend. Anna is reluctant to partake in this, however, because she is harboring a painful secret from Frankie: she actually had a relationship with Matt and has no real desire to pursue another. Will Anna’s secret be revealed?

Review: I hadn’t heard much about Twenty Boy Summer before I read it, but I thought the cover was pretty cute, so I decided to give it a try. Ultimately, I’m really glad I did, as this was a wonderful story of love and loss.

At the heart of the novel was, of course, the grief that Anna and Frankie were grappling with over the loss of Matt, and Anna’s big secret. Both of these were handled in a wonderful way, and my heart was breaking for Anna as she struggled not to tell Frankie what had transpired between her and Matt the year before. Feeling loyalty to someone, even if they’re no longer around, is something I completely understand, and it must have been so hard for Anna to not be able to talk about the depth of her grief, as such a huge piece of her story was hidden.

Anna was a realistic character with complex emotions, which effectively made her very relatable. Her thoughts were often in conflict with each other, and when the monkey wrench otherwise known as Sam was thrown in, a whole slew of new issues and feelings emerged that she was forced to deal with. All of her reactions were believable, and it seemed as if anyone in that situation would have reacted in a similar way.

Our other main character, Frankie, couldn’t have been more different than Anna, but she was also rather compelling to read about. Unlike Anna, Frankie’s motives were not evident from the very beginning of the novel, and it was often incredibly difficult to see where she was coming from. At times, her actions were downright frustrating. It wasn’t until the latter part of the book that the reader began to understand why she was acting the way she did, and once it all was revealed, everything made perfect sense.

Even though grief was a huge part of the novel, there were many other themes to keep this book moving. Love was also one of the biggest elements of the book, and finding new love after death was explored in a wonderful, authentic way. Acceptance is such a huge part of the grieving process, and while it isn’t an easy thing to do, it’s a necessary step that one must take. You don’t forget the person you cared for, but rather, you try to find happiness again. Watching the girls come to this conclusion over the course of the novel was incredibly moving.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt story with love, heartache, and friendship at its core, give Twenty Boy Summer a try.

Rating: 3/5

Read-alikes: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson, Instructions for a Broken Heart – Kim Culbertson, anything by Sarah Dessen


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