All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler

on December 10, 2010

Anna and her next-door neighbours Frankie (short for Francesca) and Matt, Frankie’s older brother, made a perfect trio of three. Best friends, they were inseparable and equal – all up until Anna’s 15th birthday. Anna had been secretly in love with Matt since she was 10 and he was 12 but it wasn’t until her 15th birthday that she got some indication that he might feel the same way. After a food fight with her birthday cake where they end up wearing the icing, they kiss secretly. And that starts a wonderful, but clandestine relationship. Anna knows they have to tell Frankie and she wants to tell Frankie – tell everyone so they can stop sneaking around. But Matt is protective of Frankie and he wants to tell her himself and assure her that it won’t change things between the 3 of them and that she won’t be left out. He thinks the perfect time to tell her is on his family’s summer vacation in Zanzibar Bay, California. That way he and Frankie can have some time together and he can explain everything. Anna agrees to this, looking forward to the time when it’s all out in the open. Their last outing together before Matt, Frankie and their parents go away for their summer trip, the 3 teenagers are getting ice cream. Matt is driving. One moment they are driving along, singing loudly, having fun. The next few moments are a mix of screaming, swerving, loud noises, crashing. It changes everything.

A year later, just after her 16th birthday, Anna and Frankie are still trying to come to terms with the loss of Matt. Frankie has totally changed – now she’s all about make up, clothes, appearances and boys. About losing her virginity. She’s a bit wilder now, a bit sharper. And her family is slowly falling apart. Anna is trying to be the strong one for Frankie, trying to hold her up despite her own grief, which is deeper than Frankie knows. Frankie’s parents decide they need to go back to Zanzibar Bay and they invite Anna to go with them. That starts Frankie off on a project – the Absolute Best Summer Ever where they will try and get rid of what Frankie names ‘Anna’s Albatross’ – her virginity. She challenges Anna to twenty boys in twenty days (meeting, not sleeping with!) with the ultimate goal of losing her virginity by the end of the holiday and although Anna is reluctant, she can’t tell Frankie why she is reluctant as she’s still  keeping her promise to Matt about not telling her. She especially doesn’t know how Frankie would cope now. So she goes along with Frankie’s plan.

Avoiding and lying to Frankie’s vague and unquestioning parents, Anna and Frankie find that meeting boys isn’t really much of a problem. Anna has standards  though, when Frankie wanted to include some middle aged man who buys them smoothies and makes suggestive remarks, she won’t hear of it. But when they meet Sam and Jack down on a secluded part of the beach, Anna is immediately drawn to him, even though she doesn’t want to be. She finds that when she is with Sam, she forgets about Matt. As Frankie and Jack hook up publicly anywhere and everywhere, Sam and Anna are getting to know each other.

I’d heard good things about this book – really good things. It’s certainly got interesting components – dealing with grief, the loss of a boyfriend, the first real romantic connection Anna has ever had. Anna also had very strict parents, but this was skilfully negotiated by making Frankie’s lax and having most of the action take place away from Anna’s home. I loved Anna as a character – I thought she was spot on. Trying so hard to be strong for her best friend, even though Frankie had changed almost into someone Anna didn’t recognise anymore and also trying to deal with her own overwhelming grief that she must keep secret. Anna feels like she almost doesn’t have a right to grieve as much as Frankie and that she has to hide it away because Frankie’s grief is far greater and hers would just look weird. She’s too scared to tell Frankie what was going on between her and Matt before his death. The only thing I didn’t particularly like about Anna was that she was a bit weak in the face of Frankie’s determination to rid Anna of her virginity. Anna is clearly cut from a different cloth and Frankie barrels on about this project without even really noticing what Anna is feeling and Anna doesn’t bother to tell her.

I’ve no experience with grief on the level Frankie was going through but I didn’t like her as a character. She was selfish and a bit of a bully, actually. Anna may’ve needed a gentle push to socialise and open herself up to the possibility of meeting someone again (even though Frankie didn’t know that) but she didn’t need to be crowbarred into talking to skeevy old blokes perving at them in their bikini’s and buying them smoothies. And every time Anna tried to find her comfort zone, Frankie was there pushing her right out of it again. She also manipulated her parents (“Jackie” and “Samantha”) but although this is touched on as a thinly veiled attempt at getting them to care where she was or what she was doing, this wasn’t fully explored. Her parents give the impression of desperately wanting her to be happy and move on, and if she’s finding new friends on their holiday, so be it. They are dealing with their own grief and although they do get a little bit lost in dealing with Frankie, I certainly don’t think it was like they didn’t care about her.

Frankie’s reaction upon finally finding out about Matt and Anna was predictable and a bit annoying and I didn’t at all like the way in which she found out. It was a pretty bad invasion of Anna’s privacy and makes Frankie all the more less likable to me. And the reaction and the drama that followed was a bit tedious and if I was Anna, I’d have just given her a good serve. But I might be being a bit too harsh, as she was an emotional 16yo girl and even though she wasn’t a very likable one, there were some probable causes for her poor actions.

This book certainly had potential and it delivered on some aspects, but not on others. I would’ve liked more exploration of the relationship between Frankie and her parents and probably not for the book to have skipped the year between Matt’s death and when they go on vacation. It made it a bit hard to get a sense of the grief and how each character had tried to cope, particularly Anna. As we’re told the story through her eyes, we are informed a lot of what Frankie is doing/has done, but not about Anna.


Book #109 of 2010

2 responses to “Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler

  1. I’m a little bit intrigued by the storyline — I assume Frankie ends up finding out about Anna and Matt, but I’m curious to see how she takes this news. And I’m glad you clarified that it’s twenty boy to MEET ONLY, not sleep with, in twenty days — I was starting to wonder about the title! 🙂

    • Yeah and the way Frankie carries on about Anna losing her virginity, it could mean that lol. It was a quick, enjoyable read but not really that in depth though, considering the topics it was dealing with

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