Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Series: Standalone
Published: June 1st, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
290 pages (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
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Synopsis: 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.

Anna, Frankie, and Matt have that very special, almost sacred friendship that comes from knowing each other forever. They have a shared history, they know each other’s secrets, hopes, dreams, fears, and they’re an inseparable trio. Except that Matt isn’t just Anna’s best-friend-who’s-a-boy - he’s also the boy she’s secretly loved for many years. When Matt dies, everything changes. Anna and Frankie are as close as ever but there’s an invisible divide between them - they don’t talk about Matt, and they no longer know all of each other’s secrets.

Twenty Boy Summer is an incredible, emotional story that made me laugh, made me cry, broke my heart, but then pieced it back together again. It’s a story of love, loss, friendship, grief, secrets, heartbreak, and hope.

I connected with Anna immediately. She’s such a real character - her actions, reactions, and emotions feel very genuine. Speaking as someone who’s gone through the process of grief more than once, I felt a deep emotional connection with her, and also felt that her emotions rang true. Aside from the grief, Anna was funny, smart, loyal, a little quirky, and was the kind of girl you’d be lucky to have as your best friend.

The writing in this story is simple and beautiful. Ockler is a master of metaphors, and the writing itself helped me to connect even more with the story. Anna’s inner dialogue and observations often had me nodding along or rereading certain passages because they were so beautifully written. I could picture myself right there with her and Frankie on the beach in California, lying in the sun, learning to surf, sipping Va-Va-Vineapple smoothies, and falling love. 

I made a couple of Va-Va-Vineapple smoothies, and they're pretty much the best thing ever. You need to read this book and find out how they're made! ;-)

And speaking of falling in love, I was glad the romance wasn’t the main focus of the book. I fell in love with Matt in the very short time we knew him (talk about extraordinary writing when you fall in love with a character who’s there and gone in a flash). I had trouble imagining Anna moving on, even though it had been a year, and although I enjoyed the romance between her and Sam, and I thought Sam was pretty incredible (ok, I kinda fell for him), I was glad that it was mostly Anna’s story and that the author didn’t fall back on needing a guy to get over Matt’s death or comfort her or heal her. Although Anna's short relationship with Sam did help to heal her in some ways, it wasn’t the main focus of the book, and that made me love Anna even more.

Despite the fact that this story is truly heartbreaking in so many ways, it also carries a message of hope. Anna learns so much in her three weeks away, and comes back a changed person. She realizes it’s okay to move on and that by doing so she’s not betraying Matt’s memory. Things change - life changes - but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Funny, sweet, and emotional, Twenty Boy Summer is a perfect summer (or anytime!) read for those looking for something with a little more depth than the typical ‘beach read’.

Have you read Twenty Boy Summer? What did you think? How do you feel about books that deal with serious issues like loss and grief?


  1. I loved this one. I read it last year during Banned Books Week. It was powerful, and it had the right balance between the various situations/emotions. I can really enjoy a lot of books with serious issues like this, some I don't like. It depends on how the author approaches it. :)

  2. This book has been on my TBR list forever it seems. I can't wait to read it. Thank you for sharing your review!


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