Tuesday, 30 June 2009

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay 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.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. -(from the book cover)

Sarh Ockler has a beautiful writing style that drew me in from the first page. She drew believable characters and threw them into a situation where they each had to experience grief in their own way. I especially liked Anna who grieved for Matt, but didn't feel like she was allowed to express her grief. The emoptions in the book were well expressed and really pull the reader into the story.

My enchantment with the book started fading when Frankie comes up with the challenge of finding 20 boys over the summer. It seems innocent enough until Frankie starts referring to Anna's virginity as something that is holding her back from enjoying life. The rest of the book seems to focus a lot on this, and as well written as it was, I couldn't imagine recommending it to my teenage daughters.

What I found most disturbing was how lightly the whole subject was treated. As the girls sneak out of the house at night and Anna spends intimate time with her summer boyfriend (nothing graphic), I kept waiting for some sort of consequences. But there was nothing. Anna even says, "Somewhere beneath my newly tanned skin I know I should wait, that it should be special, that it should be with someone I can wake up with in the morning, tomorrow and always." These girls go through their summer lying to their parents and worse, even watching their friendship fall apart, and yet at the end of the book, all this is put behind them, the parents never find out, and the friends come back together as if nothing ever happened.

This book did reaffirm my belief that I need to read everything my kids read so I will know the kinds of things the world is preaching to them, and help them pick appropriate literature. I'm still a firm believer that a great book can be written for teenagers without having to bring sex into the picture. Even though I enjoyed the writing style and to some degree, liked the characters, I won't be recommending this book to anyone still in high school or younger.

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