Twenty Boy Summer (by Sarah Ockler)

9 11 2011

The notoriety that Sarah Ockler gained after the whole Republic school library book banning affair sets Twenty Boy Summer up as this hugely controversial book about sex, sex, sex, oh and more sex. And a bit of sex too. And yes the premise of the book, to which the title refers, is indeed a sexual one.

A year ago Matt, Frankie’s brother and Anna’s best-friend-who-is-a-boy, died after a car accident which was the result of a heart condition.  Despite the fact that Matt, Frankie and Anna had been inseparable since childhood, Frankie didn’t know that her brother and her best friend had a romance going on… And because Matt died – literary of a broken heart – before they could tell her, Anna has had this secret from her best friend for more than a year. Besides dealing with her own emotions, Anna also saw her best friend Frankie change a lot after her brother died. Now, the summer after his death, Frankie thinks that spending 20 days in sunny Zanzibar Bay, California, is the ideal way to deal with their grief, meet a boy every day (hence the 20 boy summer…) and maybe they can deal with Anna’s Albatros (aka the big V). Though Anna is clearly not over Matt, she reluctantly agrees.

What follows is more a heartfelt piece about how everyone deals with grief in different ways than a call to lose your virginity in the most irresponsible ways imaginable (because  apparently “sensationalizing sexual promiscuity” was  the main reason why it got banned, that and the fact it “included questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents, and a lack of remorse”…oh and “principles contrary to the Bible”… um, okay…because we all want our books to be in accordance with the bible, of course…).  The whole aspect of “a boy a day” is never really a prominent feature in the book, and banning a book because you conclude that it is – on the basis of the title alone this is an easy conclusion to jump to – says more about the intelligence of the book banner than about the inherent merit of this book. And this book is a book that deals with finding first love, losing yourself when your first love is lost, grieving, trying to deal with that grief in a number of ways (escapist, confrontational, …), remembering, moving on…

That being said, this book didn’t make the cat all warm and fuzzy inside, nor did it make her reach out for the tissue box. It’s an OK summer read, nothing particularly wrong with it, definitely not “banning material”, if there ever was such a thing. The cat’s main beef with the book was yes, the utter predictability of it all. Of course emotions are a complicated thing, of course there’s going to be another boy, of course Frankie is going to find out, of course the two will fall out, of course they will reconcile. Luckily, Sarah Ockler’s prose is of the flowing kind and she never makes it very hard on the reader to keep going . All in all, Twenty Boy Summer is definitely a decent debut novel which will be popular with the kids who like books like If I Stay or That Summer…  It’s the type of book that is usually categorized under chicklit…but the cat likes her chicklit with a little bit more bite.

PS. A side-note: not *all* parents are as clueless as Frankie’s are in the novel!!

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