Saturday, 25 September 2010

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

By now I'm sure all you book people have heard of SpeakLoudly one way or another, and how one man would like to ban 3 books, Twenty Boy Summer included, for reasons I personally can't begin to understand. But it was actually this issue that made me seek out this book to read now rather than later, because not only did it sound good, but I wanted to see if he mangled the plot of it as badly as he did that of Laurie Halse Anderson's awesome, Speak. Turns out, he really did. So here's my review of a book I wouldn't have read for months, if not for him trying to ban it and bringing it to my attention. So thank you Mr. Scroggins, for making me read an awesome book so much sooner.

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise me you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's out secret, right?"
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 has her 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, what it means to grieve, and ultimately hoe to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

Anna and her next door neighbours, Frankie and her older brother Matt, have grown up together, always best friends, telling each other everything. Almost. Anna never told Frankie she had been in love with Matt since she was 10. Or that on her 15th birthday she finally got her wish and Matt kissed her. They spent a month together, hiding their relationship from Frankie. Then tragedy struck and Matt was gone. Anna has promised him she'd never tell their secret, now she has to take it to the grave, playing the supportive best friend to Frankie never telling her that she misses Matt just as much.

A year after his death the girls are off on vacation with Frankie's parents, and Frankie is determined they'll find a summer romance. If they can meet a boy a day, then it should be easy. Twenty days, twenty boys. Two girls grieving for the loss of the other part of their friendship. A friendship where once no secrets lived, now divided by something they can still barely believe happened.

I loved this book. It took just a couple of pages to have me hooked and if not for being ill and not able to read as much as normal, I'd have finished it easily in a day. Anna's narrative had me from the start, her easy voice drawing me in. The pain of Matt's death came across so sharply that despite being just pages in to it and knowing it would happen, I was tearing up. And tearing up many more times throughout the book as Anna tried to deal with the loss, the secret and moving on. Even though the book is written in first person from Anna's perspective, the pain coming across from her watching Frankie, and Frankie's parents, also deal with Matt's loss had me in tears as well. It was just so raw, it wasn't hard to imagine it being real.

It's a beautifully written story of two girls dealing with their grief and the different ways it can affect people. It broke me apart so many times while I was reading it, but it pulled me back together by the end as they learnt to deal and to move on. There was some summer romance involved which was soft, sweet and awkward in the right places. But it wasn't really the focus at any point, it was just another aspect of Anna dealing with her grief for Matt, her first love and her best-friend-thats-a-boy. It was pretty perfectly done actually, all of the book. The grief, the lies, the anger and the truth. It showcased the various reactions and issues that come up when dealing with the loss of a loved one, and the journey of learning to deal with it.

It was so hard to put the book down, even though I was pretty ill while reading it. It was just gripping in its beautiful, raw realness. It was a painful journey as both girls grew and changed on their journey and it came to what felt like a very natural, believable, satisfying conclusion. I would highly recommend it!!

Rating: 9/10


Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving the book a try and for sharing your review! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Sarah Ockler

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I am loving how many people are reading and reviewing twenty Boy Summer now due to the article. His timing was perfect... Banned Books Week. I read this book months ago and I loved it!

Glad to see you did too!