Author: Sarah Ockler
Release date: 2009
Genre: Summer Romance, Realism
Target audience: 12+
Twenty Boy Summer is a fragile, beautiful and touching story. Anna is best friends with siblings Matt and Frankie. They have grown up together and are inseparable. Anna has been in love with Matt since she was ten. On her fifteenth birthday they finally share a kiss and Anna’s heart is full to bursting with joy. Matt asks Anna not to tell Frankie. He wants to protect Frankie from getting hurt. For one month Matt and Anna sneak tiny moments together whenever they can. But then just before Matt and Frankie are due to go to California on holiday Matt tragically dies. The whole world falls off its axis for Frankie and her family. Anna is left keeping the secret and grieving for a boy that everyone believes was just her friend.
A year later, Frankie’s parents invite Anna to go to California with them for a holiday. Frankie on her road of supreme self-confidence devises a plan that this should be the best summer ever. It will be the summer of twenty boys and many firsts for Anna. But Anna has already fallen in love with Matt. How long can she keep the secret from Frankie?
Summer is so vividly described in this book that you can the salty crust of ocean spray from the Californian ocean waves. You can feel the cool, damp sand as your toes burrow beneath the surface, the scent of sun cream as people lay on the beach bronzing. This novel had a such a power to evoke the atmosphere of holiday and the potential that it holds for one to discover something new. When you are away from your normal daily life, somehow you can find a new perspective, resolve to make a change or just be more adventurous than you usually are.
As well as being about loss and friendship, this novel is also about summer romance. At the start of the trip Anna is apprehensive about Frankie’s idea for twenty potential male candidates for them to test drive. But once they get to Zanibar Bay, they meet Sam and Jake. Despite Anna’s fears that letting another boy in will erase her last memories of Matt, she can’t stop thinking about Sam from the Smoothie Shack.
This book had me reading through blurry eyes for much of it. I could feel Anna’s grief so painfully as she wrote in her journal or remembered a funny story about Matt. It also had me yearning for the ocean and those days where the sea can invigorate you into someone just a little braver or smarter or funnier. Twenty Boy Summer is a book that is perfect for all seasons, not just summer. It is simply beautiful.