Twenty Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler

Little, Brown and Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-316-05159-0.
Reviewed by Becca Taylor
Posted on 07/07/2009

Teen/Girls; Fiction: Romance

Young adults will enjoy Sarah Ockler's debut novel for the top-notch portrayal of teen-aged best friends and summer vacation adventure. Ockler also tackles some grown-up issues, such as death, betrayal, drinking, and sex. However, she addresses them all with realism and introspection, even some self-deprecating humor, which leads the reader to unmistakable lessons and insights.

Anna, Frankie, and Matt are best friends, always have been, but one day Anna and Matt become something more. Matt isn't sure how to break the news to his sister, Frankie, so the budding romance is kept a secret. A tragic accident leaves that romance locked away as the girls navigate their grief and try to rebuild their lives. Frankie is understandably devastated by her brother's death, going through a metamorphosis and making unwise choices. Anna, on the other hand, withdraws and tries to take care of Frankie, perhaps at the expense of her own healing. One year after his death, Matt's parents take Frankie and Anna on summer vacation to their traditional spot in the hopes of helping everyone move on. Anna and Frankie then start planning their best summer ever, determining to measure its success by meeting twenty boys each. Thus is born their twenty-boy summer. When they arrive at Zanzibar Bay, though, their summer doesn't go as precisely planned. Both Anna and Frankie discover new truths about themselves and each other, ultimately finding their own measure of healing and emerging from their cocoons of grief.

Teens and adults alike will relate to Ockler's self-deprecating humor as she recounts the girls' relationships, doubts, and fears. If you know a teen who has lost someone dear to them, or has a friend who is grieving a loss, give them this book to read. One of the most important lessons Ockler provides is that loss is felt by everyone—no one has a monopoly on grief, everyone is allowed to grieve a loss. And what's more, there is healing from that grief, even if it seems impossible.

Sarah Ockler wrote and illustrated her first book at age six—an adaptation of Steven Spielberg's E.T. Still recovering from her own adolescence, Sarah now writes for young adults. While nomadic at heart, she currently lives in Upstate New York with her husband Alex and an ever-expanding collection of sea glass. Visit her online.

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