Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
4 out of 5 stars
How pretty is this cover? I thought the heart was made of scraps of paper at first, but it's actually sea glass (which makes more sense duh) and it's just so simple compared to all those ones with skinny girls in giant, poofy dresses running from nothing. But it works. I wasn't expecting so many feelings with this book. When I started it, I thought I was getting a light and fluffy summer book about two girls flirting with a bunch of boys. Instead I got a heartbreaking story about falling in love and losing that love in an instant and how to come back from that. This was really a good book, but it should come with a warning: "do not read in public, for you will probably ugly cry". And how do I know this? Because I read it at work. And I know what you're thinking...didn't it mention the sad bit on the back of the book? Well yeah, but apparently I didn't pay attention or already forgot because I was pretty shocked when it happened.
Anna has lived all her life next door to brother & sister, Matt & Frankie. She is best friends with Frankie and has been in love with Matt (two years older than the girls) since she was ten. She's been keeping this a secret for the last 5 years, but on her 15th birthday, things suddenly change...Matt kisses her. Anna is overjoyed to find that he has the same feelings she does but they are worried about what Frankie will think. They decide that Matt has to be the one to tell her, in a few weeks on their summer vacation to California. Anna agrees but is also conflicted about keeping this secret.
The thought of keeping something so important, so intense, so unbelievable from my best friend for even one more day almost killed me. Never before in our shared history did I hide so much as a passing crush-she knew everything. She'd been there for every tragedy, every celebration, every embarrassing moment.
And then the unthinkable happens. Matt dies, the girls are devastated and Anna has this huge secret. She decides she can never tell Frankie, that she is doing this to protect her, that she won't appreciate or understand. And a year passes. The girls and their families are trying their hardest to move on, but the cracks are showing. Frankie is a bit of a party girl, Anna doesn't bother trying to get any boy's attention, but continues to do her best to protect Frankie for Matt. Anna goes on summer vacation with Frankie and her parents and they all try to act like it's okay and things are moving forward.
Sometimes I think we all feel guilty for being happy, and as soon as we catch ourselves acting like everything is okay, someone remembers it's not.
Frankie decides to make it her mission to help Anna get some "experience" and comes up with her Twenty Boy Summer plan. Anna goes along, for Frankie, but can't even fathom a time when she can forget Matt long enough to like another boy. The grief in this book grips you but there are also moments of joy. Anna's love for Frankie is beautiful, she will do anything to make her happy, even sacrificing her own happiness. Ockler's descriptions of the ocean and the beach made me ache to be there, digging my toes into the warm sand, feeling the ocean spraying my face, and the sun beating down on my shoulders. And also scouting out boys. :)
Somewhere along the seashore, a strange wind blows over the ocean, and twenty oblivious boys simultaneously look up from their surfboards.
Of course, there are boys boys boys. Maybe not quite twenty, but plenty to keep the girls occupied. Some are gross, icky boys with only one thing on their mind and some are wonderful, understanding, cute boys that turn out to be perfect for healing hearts. I wasn't crazy about all the sneaking around they did to get to these boys, but then I would have done the same thing at their age. And on the flip-side, I wasn't crazy about how oblivious Frankie's parents were to her pain and scheming, but I'm sure it's normal too. On the surface, Frankie is all about the Plan but you can tell underneath that she's just a hurt little girl. And it's those moments that really make the friendship between the two girls so real. And the betrayal that happens towards the end of their trip so awful. I can imagine how I would feel at that age if (SPOILER): someone had read my journal and I just cringe in sympathy. This book has really helped me find my love for contemporary romances again...I was in kind of a rut and now I just want to devour them all. :)
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.