Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler

In July 2011, this book and 'Slaughterhouse-Five' were banned from school libraries in Missouri. However, they were brought back into the library but with heavy restrictions in September. Their reasons, I hear you cry?

'Books that fail to meet the age-appropriate threshold for language, violence, sexuality and drugs, alcohol and tobacco -- including the two in question -- would be available at school but housed in a secured section of the library. But, they could only be checked out by a parent or guardian.' 

It was also said that this book does against the values and beliefs of the Bible- so needs to be banned? I find it ridiculous personally, however, I understand the reasons, after reading, why it could be censored. These issues are dealt with in the novel, but so do about 20 other YA books I could mention, and none of them are less or more graphic than TWENTY BOY SUMMER. 
So where did I require my copy of this book? Well, ironically, my college library...

Synopsis: When Anna and her best friend, Frankie are getting ready for the best summer ever on holiday with Frankie's parents at Zanzibar Bay in California, they make a challenge. Twenty days in a beach town is the perfect opportunity to meet one boy a day, then, Anna has a pretty good chance to have her first summer romance. Although Anna light-heartedly agrees, there is something she hasn't told Frankie. She's already had her first romance the summer before with Frankie's older brother, Matt - who tragically died a month later. As the girls set off on their trip and the challenge starts, Anna has to find a way to tell Frankie before she finds out herself. 

Review: I don't quite know what to say about this novel. There were moments I loved, moments I didn't but by the end of this book, I connected with it and started to get into Anna and Frankie's lives, relationship and feelings. 
The crazy idea of a guy every day for twenty days on a holiday sounds ludicrous I guess. That was my first reaction when I saw the blurb. Okay, I agree it is very...teenage girl-esque, this is a typical teenage fiction book for girls about guys, love and summer. However, although upon the surface there is this, how do I put this...frivolous plot, there is a deep underlying context where Anna has to deal with both her and Frankie's grief while watching her best friend go off with a load of guys while she's still hung over with Matt. I guess the situation our protagonists are in is hardly something you see often in real life, but like all fiction, this book looks at 'What If?' All teenage girls play games or have challenges like the one in TWENTY BOY SUMMER, I should know, I am a teenager. But when you pronounce the challenge, such as this one, no-one really expects someone to go along with it but has the type of secret Anna has combined with it. It's something that really makes me think about when I ask people about things, or talk about things. 
For example, I know a few of my friends have crossed the teenage line where they may have had or done things associated with sex, I know that. But when you start talking about this kind of thing, there are people who may equally have done this but do not wish to talk about it. These are the people I think about now when I say things, where they've been in that situation before.

The writing is something that Ockler has to be merited on. She writes well with the occasional time where I had to re-read a sentence to understand - something I hate. She is very lyrical and I loved the constant references to the sea which makes this a real summer beach read book. Some reviews I have read talked about Sarah Ockler's wit and laugh out moments and yes, there were a few times which I found entertaining but personally, I did not find it THAT funny at all. The antics and outings Anna and Frankie had were entertaining and there was no moment, however, that I found boring. 

The characters are fantastic. And this book really reminded me of SAVING JUNE by Hannah Harrington with the protagonist, love interest, someone dead, the frivolous best friend, California - it really did remind me of that book. I felt, like some other bloggers, that Frankie's past character was lost a little with the past memories of Matt and Anna. Anna talks a lot about how Frankie has changed but as a reader, I didn't quite understand that she had as I never saw a clear image of the old Frankie. Matt became that perfect boy character, the one most readers come away wanting to know personally. For me, Anna was an interesting voice that I enjoyed reading about. She wasn't too 'out there' but wasn't too reserved with herself and her feelings. 
One problem that I found was with Anna's love for Matt and Sam. I liked Sam as a character and I understand the attraction Ockler makes Anna and the reader have for him. But. Anna says she has liked Matt for about six years before something finally happens and for me it showed that this relationship was built on being best friends from childhood, then, liking him. However, it seemed like the minute Anna set eyes on Sam, she was in love with him straight away which seemed the complete opposite to her attraction to Matt. I know this was done purposefully, but to me, it seemed a little weird. 

The romance and overall plot in TWENTY BOY SUMMER is well done. It brings the essence of a conventional teenage novel but adds a psychological look at the effects of Anna's type of grief for someone who she loved but no-one else knew she did. It is interesting and enjoyable to read, despite the few flaws. Anna and Matt as characters I think make this book, especially with the way it was written by Ockler. This book reminded me of so many novels I have enjoyed like THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE or SAVING JUNE. 
This is a book I would recommend for people who enjoy this type of fiction. I would have liked to see more of Frankie's past rather than Matt and Anna's, but overall, this is a book I think I'll remember and smile at.
Verdict: If you don't enjoy those typical teenage girl reads...avoid!

I give it a 4 out of 5 

Author's Website:
Pages: 290
Publisher: Little Brown Young Readers
Challenges: None 

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