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Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

T w e n t y  B o y  S u m m e r  by Sarah Ockler

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever 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 that kind of 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 and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

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Source: borrowed/Library
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Suggested: Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler ; The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson ; If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It's been a very long time since a book has pulled an extremely emotional reaction from me, the kind where a crying jag is in order. There isn't a single reader that this book can't touch - at least I think so. TWENTY BOY SUMMER is beautiful; it's a heartwrenching, bittersweet, and deeply profound story that still brings tears to my eyes even though I've already put it down.

What got me the most was the tragedy that surrounded the entirety of the tale. And the thing is, I can't express the way I feel about it all without first divulging some very necessary info. The run-down of it goes something like this: Fifteen-year-old Anna finally gets kissed by her best friend, Matt, whom she's been in love with since she was ten, followed by a heartwarming, intense whirlwind secret romance. Shortly after, the guy she's loved all of her life is the only one who doesn't survive the car accident that Anna and her other best friend, Frankie, did. Frankie, also Matt's younger sister, Anna, and Matt have been an inseparable threesome since near infancy, so Anna doesn't know how tell Frankie about her and Matt's secret relationship - a relationship, incidentally, that was supposed to be revealed after Matt got the chance to sit down with Frankie and ensure her acceptance of it. Nearly a year after the tragic loss of her surrogate brother, best friend, and boyfriend, Matt, Anna is invited to tag along with Frankie and her broken family to California - the annual trip that couldn't happened the year before, the event in which Matt was going to confess to Frankie the nature of his feelings for Anna before he lost his chance.

Now, a year after Matt's death, Anna has a much more reserved personality, privately grieving for a relationship that never got the opportunity to flourish. And that's what struck me most about this story, that feeling that Anna will never know what would have been. I think that's what tears at Anna, as well. Throughout the book, it became evident that Anna and I shared an emotional connection. I felt her sorrow, her pain, and understood, if nothing else, her unwillingness to move on from Matt, to care for someone else that could be taken away, and her simultaneous desperation to let go and feel again. The memory flashes of she and Matt together, ones that illuminated Matt's character, nearly made this read unbearable for me. I remember just stopping so that my truckload of tears wouldn't stain the pages.There was potential for so much more between them, that perfect love that everyone seeks, and to see it be snatched away so painfully--there was nothing I could do other than cry.

Anna's effort to preserve her bestfriendship with Frankie also endeared her to me. Frankie, after her brother's death, takes a shocking turn in personality, attitude, and outward appearance. Her concerns no longer lie with school, with her family, but with how to make herself look prettier, smoking, and boys. No matter how much Frankie irritated me, I couldn't fault her. How would I feel if one of my sisters died? How much would I change? I kept thinking to myself. And that alone led me to an understanding of Frankie. I couldn't restrain any sympathy, any compassion even if I wanted to. The same with her parents.

What's more, the story is wonderfully written. It's a first person narrative that kept me glued to the book's pages, that had me unquestionably addicted. Ockler's magnificent storytelling yanked me into this world of pain and love, of loss and acceptance and has not relinquished its hold on me. And when I finally came up for air, after inhaling nearly three hundred pages nonstop without pause for breath, my face was sopping with identical rivers of tears. My mom nearly had a heartattack when she saw me--though, she knows me well enough to know how emotionally invested I can get with a book.

All I can say now is that I'm really looking forward to picking up FIXING DELILAH. If it's anything like TWENTY BOY SUMMER, prepare for another sentimental review soon. P.S. Mom, if you're reading this, I know it's Mothers' Day and all - and of course, Happy Mothers Day! - but I need you to put in another book order - TWENTY BOY SUMMER is a new favorite.

"I asked [Matt] what was so funny. He jumped a little, not knowing I'd been watching him smile there like a goofy little kid. he said it was nothing - just that he had fun at the party. And I believed him, all the way up until the day I read your journal. That's when it all made sense. All the times he'd ask me about who you liked at school, or who wanted to take you to whatever dance." (285)


Alissa said...

I really loved this book, too! Great review.

I haven't tried Fixing Delilah yet. I've been hesitant because I'm not sure it'll live up to Twenty Boy Summer.

BooksforCompany said...

I have wanted to read books by this author and l was very lucky to get Fixing Delilah for review. Was really upset when l just couldn't get into it!
Hope to be able to give this one a go one day.
Thanks for the review.

A. Knight said...

Alissa - It was such a beautiful story wasn't it? I'm actually incredibly happy because my mom picked it up for me as asked. It makes me want to cry just looking at it.

And I know what you mean about FIXING DELILAH, but I'm willing to try it because it just might be wonderful. And Ockler really blew me away on this first go, so why not? I hope you give it a shot. Never know - you may not be disappointed. :)

BooksforCompany - It's been awhile since you've stopped by. Then again, I need to start visiting your blog more often. (I kind of suck at the whole blog hopping thing. Need to be more active lol.) Aw, so lucky that you received FIXING DELILAH.

Though, this type of read may not be for everyone. So, I can see how you may not have gotten into it. But, despite you're initial dislike of FIXING DELILAH, I'd definitely recommend trying TWENTY BOY SUMMER out. You may be surprised.

Thanks for stopping by, ladies!