Find it at a local indie!
- Why I read it: Wesley Scroggins, book banning, coming of age, albatrosses of all kinds
- Disclosure: Won a copy from Hannah at Paperback Treasures. Thanks!
"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."Lesson to book banners everywhere: if you tell me I shouldn't read a book because it has "pornographic" content, you have just guaranteed I will not only read it once, but will probably buy it, read it over and over, and then purchase copies for my friends. One, because book banning is stupid, and I'm a teenager, and therefore I like to do exactly the opposite of what you tell me to do. Two, because I'm a teenager, and pretty much a horndog, and secretly love "pornographic" content.
"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 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.
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.
Belated awkward alert. *shuffles awkwardly*
Moving on; unlike Speak, I wasn't really sure what to expect from Twenty Boy Summer. Grief, friendship, and boys are fairly broad and vague themes, after all. But as I've said before, the unexpected books are the sweetest kind, and Twenty Boy Summer was no exception.
To me, it was a coming of age story; one in which we can watch the character move from childhood to the fringes of adulthood. Aforementioned grief, friendship, and boys were secondary to our character's journey. But - and this was the beautiful thing - I could also see an infinite number of other things other people could get out of it. To me, the mark of a truly great book is subtlety, and Twenty Boy Summer has it in spades.
Most subtle of all (and this, not supposedly pornographic content, is what I imagine so angered Wesley Scroggins in the first place) is its treatment of Anna's "albatross" - a.k.a., her virginity, and sex in general. My feelings on sex have always been the toughest ones for me to sort out internally, much less put into words, and Ockler's sweet yet very real take got me to thinking about a lot of things I hadn't thought about. The concept of sex and losing virginity is not an end-all be-all for Anna, it's simply an experience. An incredibly important one, but not a life-ending one. I thought that was an awesome and very honest way to look at it; I also think it's going to piss a lot of people off (and already has). So this book is worth reading for that discussion alone.
Also very nuanced and lovely is the relationship between Anna and Frankie, who seem in a lot of ways more like sisters than best friends. The uneasy knowledge that you should want the other person to do well, but that you also want to compete with them and win, was written into Anna's internal dialogue so well that I found myself cringing in been-there sympathy. Frequently.
In fact, the entire book felt like I was reading about myself. Not in the shattering, consuming sort of way that marks the books I'm truly obsessed about, but in the laid-back, quiet way that marks a book that will always have a beloved place on my shelf for those days I need to remind myself that life is, in the end, good, and worth living.
One of the best books I've read this year and worth every bit of media attention it got in Speaks Loudly. I can't wait to read more from Sarah Ockler! Five out of five stars.