Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: 20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

It’s my mission to make you care about these words, Anna. About these people and everything they say and everything they were. Every story is part of a whole, entire life, you know? Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but an entire life. And books let you know them.” (p. 167 ARC edition, may vary from final published version)

The title makes you think this is going to be a light and frothy summer vacation story about girls meeting a bunch of cute boys. And there is that aspect to it, but this is book that goes deeper than that, a book that gives you a front row seat to all the giddiness, sadness, and messiness that is first love, second love and close friendship – and most of all, a book that makes you care about the characters as if they were real people.

Anna has been best friends with Frankie and her older brother Matt since she was born – and she’s been secretly in love with Matt almost that long too. When Matt kisses her on her 15th birthday, they begin a romantic relationship that they keep hidden from Frankie for weeks. And before he can tell Frankie, he dies. Fast forward a year, and a still-grieving Anna joins a still-grieving Frankie on her family vacation to California. They make a pact to have the best summer ever, which includes a competition to see who can get the most boys. But is Anna really ready to let go of Matt? And can she ever tell Frankie just how much Matt meant to her too?

There's some romantic window dressing, but the fully realized friendship between Anna and Frankie lies at the core of this novel. I like how Ockler focused on them instead of diluting the narrative with a bunch of side characters. Of course there are the parents (abnormally permissive and unquestioning) and the California boys they meet and sneak out with on a nightly basis (Sam and Jake), but these take a back seat to exploring the nature of friendship and the nature of grief.

For example, Anna says, “Sometimes I think if she knew about Matt and me, it would bring us closer. If I could make her understand how much I cared about him, she’d let me into the exclusive club where all the members have a right to be irrevocably sad. Instead, I am an intruder. I look into the windows and see them crying, but I’m outside in the dark, and they can’t see me.” (p. 76-77 ARC edition)

There was one aspect that bothered me though, and it was the way virginity was referred to an “albatross” that should be cast off as soon as possible, preferably to someone you don’t care about and will never see again. I mean, ok, feeling like a reject because you’ve never been kissed at 16, that I get. But if kissing someone you don’t care about is icky (and it is*), then sharing the most intimate act of human bonding with some random guy just to get it over with? At 16? That’s just…there are no words for how wrong I find that. Fortunately, the “albatross” plotline is resolved in a semi-responsible way though that does make sense for the story.

Release date for 20 BOY SUMMER is June 1st, though many copies have already been spotted in the wild. Hunt one down now! Visit the author at http://sarahockler.com/




* Khy wanted me to write about about a 20 boy kissing competition I had with my best friend, alias M*Girl. The idea was to see who collect kisses from 20 nationalities first. I made my way pretty well around the South American countries, but M*Girl won. And this was when I learned that kissing guys you don't care about is icky.

37 comments:

bermudaonion said...

That doesn't sound like a great way to refer to virginity in a YA book.

~The Book Pixie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~The Book Pixie said...

I totally agree with you on the whole virginity thing. Of course, I can't say that for most the girls at the high school I used to attend. There is barely a virgin in that place. I have been wanting to read this book though. Great review!

Mitzy said...

I've been wanting to read this book for forever and am so excited it's almost here!

dissectingperfection said...

I'm glad you brought this up - it seems to be a sort of trend now. Girls! Do not throw your "albatross" away!!!

(Man, that is a really bad analogy)

I'm still really excited for this book! Squeee! Thanks for the honest review, Lenore!

katie said...

I am currently reading this book and I love it so far. Great review!

Mishel said...

I didn't even consider how the "albatross"/ virginity thing came into play. I find it wrong too after thinking about it. I know I regret my first time (I know way too personal). I wish everyone, girls and guys alike, would think twice before getting rid of the albatross on their back. Ahh look at me I'm on my soap box huh? Just saying I totally agree with your viewpoint. And your "icky" sidenote made me giggle.

Also, I didn't expect to get so emotionally involved with the characters. I totally thought it would have been light and about boys the whole way through. I really enjoyed the book.

Iryna said...

Great review. I read another book review of this novel and I noticed that they also included very though-provoking quotes. I have a feeling I'm going to like this book!

Amelia said...

Great review! I have been wondering about this one for a while now.

Belle said...

I remember those days of "first love, second love and close friendship" - I love your description of it. This sounds like a good read.

Steph Su said...

I loved your review, Lenore, particularly the discussion that's arising from the virginity issue. I haven't read the book yet (clearly, hehe), but I'm curious to see for myself how it's going to end up being, and whether or not I'll believe it. I can see where the character's stance on it is coming from, so that's why I'm curious. Anyway, thanks!

Dar said...

I absolutely agree with you on the virginity issue. Wow, I think girls should be proud to be virgins at 16 and even older. Great review Lenore!

towerofbooks said...

You've made me curious about how the virginity issue gets resolved, and now I want to read this book. :P

Linda said...

I saw this on Library Thing, and I do want to read it - so - it's on my TBR list (as soon as I buy it)...

infiniteshelf said...

Those days it seems that every review I read is a great one about a great book, and this one is no exception! This is another book I want to add to my TBR list! Thanks!

Melanie said...

Of all the reviews I've read of this book, you're the only one who has referred to the virginity issue, and now I'm really curious to read the book. The plot sounds incredibly interesting too.

All around South America, huh. That's really interesting! :D

Beth Kephart said...

Thanks for making this book real, and bigger than its title.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I read and reviewed this book, as well. I liked it, but the virginity issue and hiding from parents issue concerned me.

Sheri

Staci said...

This book is in my coming-up week of reads...loved your review and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Amy said...

I really liked this book, but you mentioned the only that bothered me, and prevents me from being able to fully recommend it to all of my readers many of whom are conservative.

Kami Garcia said...

I LOVED this book. It is so subtle and beautifully written. Check pit the contest for it on my blog.

ReaderGirl said...

Great review! I'm reading it now but I'm not that far into it so I havn't reached the virginity bit. hmm =/ but it's very well written. :)

~ ReaderGirl Reviews

Emily Ruth said...

It does sound a lot better than I was imagining...

Elizabeth said...

Word on the ick, but your competition story is hilarious.

Reader Rabbit said...

Sounds great! Great review!

That competition does sound icky though!

Liviania said...

Sometimes kissing a boy you do care about is icky too. And I should be reading this one soon, so I wonder about how I'll feel about the virginity thing. Most of my friends and I are still virgins and it doesn't really bother us. I don't know why some people get so hung up on it.

Joanne said...

I really did expect this to be a light read from the title, but after reading your review I really want to check it out! And it has a perfect release date - June 1 is my birthday and I plan to spend it buying lots of books and eating lots of gelato :)

Alexa said...

I've just bought this, having been asked to write a guest post about summer to help celebrate the release on another blog :) It sounds an excellent read. thanks for the review.

BTW there is a great interview with the author here

http://tinyurl.com/p35tpy

Zibilee said...

Sounds like a very interesting yet sometimes sad book, though the "albatross" thing is a little disconcerting. Thanks for the great review!

Anonymous said...

I also had sex too soon. I wasn't emotionally ready for it. I mean, sure, the ideal would be to wait for that one special person, but that doesn't happen to many. High school boys aren't worth the baggage!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, but the book still sounds good. I would like to see what all the albatross fuss is about.

Ms. Yingling said...

This one is definitely not a middle school title, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the title and plot contradicted each other!

Amee said...

Great review! Sounds like a great book. :)

Elise said...

I want to read this book so bad! I didn't give it a thought until I learned it did have deeper meaning then just a light-hearted summer read. The virginity thing kind of throws me off, but I think I will definitely read this anyway.

#2 extra entry

The Book Girl said...

The virginity aspect is kind of bugging me, because I'm most definitely against the doing it without love thing, and even the 16 and under thing. But the book still sounds fantastic. I love the fact that despite the cutesy title and pretty cover, there is a deeper story there. Sounds like my kind of book :-)

trish said...

I'd heard about this book all over the blogosphere, but didn't even bother checking out the reviews because what could possibly be deep about a book titled 20 BOY SUMMER? It actually sounds pretty good, though.

And about that albatross thing...that bothers me too. If you're 30 or 40 and a virgin, THEN I could MAYBE imagine that your virginity is an albatross (kind of like apologizing to someone...the longer you wait the harder it is), but at 16? No.

#extra entries

KayLynn said...

I adored this book, it was kinda sad knowing she lost her first love... i know it would be sad for me!

#extra entry