Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Anna and her best friend Frankie are ready to embark on the Absolute Best Summer Ever (ABSE) - a twenty day long vacation in sunny California with Frankie's mom and dad. Convinced Anna's lack of experience in the boy department will finally be fixed in California, Frankie institutes the 20 boys in 20 days plan.

Typical teenage summer love story right?

Wrong. If Sarah Ockler had just left it there, you'd have a fun, light novel but let's just add another layer here, shall we? Anna and Frankie's lives have been forever marred by a horrible tragedy that has become the proverbial pink elephant in the room - one they don't speak about and try to forget ever happened - but which haunts their every day. Feeling like she should be there to support Frankie, Anna has despaired to watch Frankie basically fall apart for the past year all the while holding onto her own secrets and pain. Their summer, although in the guise of meeting boys and escaping the watchful eye of parents, is full of pain, love, loss, forgiveness and just depth.

There are so many breathtaking moments in this book. Anna is a compelling narrator who brings such meaning to a understandably complex and heartbreaking story. Even with these elements of pain and loss, Anna's youth still shines through in her often hilarious interactions with Frankie. Take this scene between Anna and Frankie for instance:

"Frankie, are you serious?"
"Maybe." She half grins, the devil that sits on shoulders in all the old cartoons. The one that's way more cute than scary and therefore causes infinitely more destruction and chaos.

I mean, just listen to that voice. Ockler has done a fabulous job of creating such a exquisite narrator. Anna's descriptions of people and place - especially the ocean - constantly blew me away. The ocean becomes a living, breathing integral part of this book: it holds secrets, dreams, fear and pain and a never-ending supply of colored sea glass. I loved this book - it made me think of the brightness of each new summer and the inherent possibilities of youth. Such a wonderful story that I couldn't have enjoyed more. And the cover? Parfait.

Don't move, Sarah Ocker. Right now, everything is perfect.


Cherie said...

When are YOU going to write a book? I'd come to the signing and everything!

Rachael Stein said...

Great review, I'm so glad you liked the book!

Michelle said...

Cherie - trust me, you'll be the first to know...

Book Muncher - I really did. I was surprised because I didn't think I'd like it that much, but I did!

Anonymous said...

Great review!
I can't wait to read this one; the love for this book seems almost unanimous! Glad to see you enjoyed it too.

Michelle said...

infinite - I hope you like it too - so many people have had good things to say and I am happy to spread the news.