Why I picked it: It’s a banned book…so automatic appeal there.
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.
Review: I have to really compose myself before writing this review because “Twenty Boy Summer” really impacted me. And I’m not ashamed to admit that – even being like 13 years older than the target audience. Sarah Ockler really blew me away with her story about love, loss, and that kinda awkward time that being a teen girl is really all about.
On the day of her 15th birthday, Anna’s wish comes true and she gets kissed by Matt – a close friend and also the brother of her best friend, Frankie. The kiss turns into many more as Matt and Anna steal moments of urgency that can only be associated with first lust. The intensity of their moments is conveyed in a way that made me really feel that rush of desire and innocent love. Instead of telling Frankie about their new connection, Anna and Matt decide to keep a secret – for fear of how she will take it. Matt, as Frankie’s brother, decides that he will be the one to tell her during their annual summer vacation to California. With that, he makes Anna promise that she won’t say a word beforehand. Before the secret relationship can be revealed, an accident happens and Matt does not survive. Anna decides to keep her last promise to him and does not reveal her secret to Frankie.
The book really picks up about a year after the tragedy when Frankie and Anna are getting ready for summer vacation. This year, Anna is accompanying Frankie and her parents to California, and both girls vow to have the best summer ever – a summer filled with twenty boys, one of whom Anna plans to lose her virginity to. Frankie, the more “advanced” of the two girls orchestrates the plan and puts it into motion, while Anna is more just along for the ride.
What really makes the book is Ockler’s impeccable writing and how she is able to put descriptive words to the exact emotions, sense of loss, and of the not-belonging that teenagers face – especially teenage girls. One of my favorite lines in the book is:
“Tonight, when Frankie sits at the table and innocently knocks over her glass of Diet Coke, Aunt Jayne starts to cry, and the translucent veil of general okayness evaporates to reveal the honest, ugly parts underneath.”
I just cannot gush enough about how well-written this book was. It really brought be back to having similar emotions and experiences, in that sort of cusp of womanhood when you’re starting to realize the power of your sexuality and the impact of lust. I can see why this book ends up on Banned Books lists, but I really don’t think it should. The lessons it teaches far outweigh the implications that it makes. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, especially anyone who currently is, or has ever been, a teenage girl.