Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher:  Little Brown & Co
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Summary: According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Twenty Boy Summer is the debut novel by the extraordinary by Sarah Ockler. Its a tale that effortlessly weaves in love, tragedy, heartbreak, friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. The novel was a roller coaster ride that left me breathless.

The Zanzibar Bay vacation is beautifully described. The descriptions are lusciously vivid. Ockler's writing is almost lyrical. I felt like I can almost taste the salt heavy in the air. Almost feel the breeze against my skin. Almost see the endless sea. And I could feel Anna's emotions as Ockler portrayed it beautifully and conveyed it fantastically. There are beautiful key phrases repeated throughout the course of the novel, my favourite was "I'm not fine, thanks for not asking." Such repetitions can sometimes border on cliche, but Ockler skill really shines through as this comes across poignant and profound in the novel.

Twenty Boy Summer is a character-driven novel, so it was important for all the characters to be developed well. And Ockler is able to characterise wonderfully. I was emotionally attached to Anna’s journey Through Anna's memory flashbacks, the audience even gets a pretty distinct picture of Matt. Her character growth and development was my favourite part of the book. There was a constant internal struggle not to forget Matt and keep his memories close to her, but she recognised the need to move on and actually start living. Francesca’s and Anna’s friendship is one with ups and downs but always remaining strong despite the heated fights. It was a realistic portrayal of the two teenagers handling their grief and trying to find a way around it.

Twenty Boy Summer isn't exactly a light-hearted comedy; but it's not exactly grieving angst either. It's a painful and lovable story where Anna and Frankie transition from kids to young women. The story contained several dimensions that wove a beautiful tale of trying to live a life that is overshadowed by death. By the end of the novel, I felt like the character's growth was inspirational. We will all go (or have gone through) a death of a loved one, and the novel teaches us that even though it doesn't feel like it, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.

A heart breaking novel of death, friendship, and secrets. I'm definitely hungry for more work from Sarah Ockler!


Raven said...


I just saw this at Borders and I was going to get it but I wasn't sure but now that I read this review, I just might have to make a second trip some time soon.

Great review! <3