Twenty Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler
Rating: 3.5 peaches
According to Anna’s 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 her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago. Twenty Boy Summer explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.
I am finding this a very hard book to settle my feelings on, which is actually a good thing. I After the first 5 chapters, I was sure I was going to dislike it. It seemed so repetitive and I found myself tired of Anna and Matt's relationship, as short as it was, because of the repetitiveness. I almost felt as I was being forced to have an emotional attachment to Anna and Matt so that I would feel Matt's death more strongly. The memories were beautiful and a great description of first love that my heart would have ached anyways, but instead of feeling the ache of loss, it felt more like a toothache from being over-sweetened. Then, Frankie and Annie get to the beach and watch Frankie and her mother spiraling out of control in different directions was mesmerizing. Their reactions and behaviors seemed extremely real to me, including the passivity of Frankie's father. Now, I believe I am going to the love the book.
However enter hot surfer guys, the "20 boy challenge" and the albatross. To start, I believed Anna's relationship with Sam and enjoyed it's slow simmer but I was concerned about all the focus on virginity (the albatross) and losing it. Honestly, I still feel torn over how it was covered and I think it will affect different readers differently, based on personal experiences and beliefs. This book has been banned and challenged because of this subject. I, for one, am not one for banning books but instead, using them to encourage discussion and dispel ignorance. Things won't go away if we ignore them. Personally, I believe Ockler is a very talented author to elicit so many different reactions and to encourage so much discussion over this subject! I think this book is an excellent place to have a discussion on virginity with young women. Anna's feelings after "abandoning her albatross" as she calls it would be interesting (and probably awkward) to discuss but I always believe it is better to be honest than live in ignorance!
At the end of the day, this book is about love in all its forms, first loves, lost loves, new loves, summer loves, book love and most of all the ways love changes as it grows.