. Athena's Books: Twenty Boy Summer...Coming to an End
Monday, August 17, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer...Coming to an End

Well, here we are at the end of summer...one more week before I go back to work and I get a whole new batch of teenagers. A whole new group to scare with the grueling workload for advanced placement world history! On the bright side (for them and for me), I know I'm going to meet some really interesting and awesome individuals, and I know I'll find some YA enthusiasts to talk books (when I'm not teaching, of course) with me!

To all my former sophomores...I already miss you (sniff, sniff). You guys must totally come visit me, especially all those of you (and you know who you are) who were like my second set of children. By the way, congratulations! A 28% passing rate on the AP World History exam! See...I told you all the note taking, quizzing, AP bible reading, and essays from the yonder unseen place was necessary torture! For those of you who don't know...28% is actually good. The exam is like the exam of nightmares. Even I'd be afraid to take it.

But on to what I love the most...YA books! And to celebrate the end of summer, this week I'll be focusing on Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. (Yes, I said this week because with school and graduate night classes, and all kinds of stuff with my own kids everyday of the week, well, I can only commit to doing so many things. But, I promise at least one post a week.)

Before I tell you what it's about, read the excerpt. That will pretty much get you over to a book store or library. I think the title itself is enough. 20 Boys + Summer = 2 Girls in Search of Love

I kick off my flip-flops and walk across the wet grass to the steps, sitting on the bottom one and digging a little tunnel in the sand with my feet. It’s wet and cold under the hot surface, just like Matt said.

As the waves shush against the shore, I look out over the ocean and watch a few families scattered along the beach. In front of me, a mother stands knee-deep in the water, waving and calling for two little boys to come in for lunch.

When someone you love dies, people ask you how you’re doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you’re okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it’s three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that’s about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will.).

They don’t want to know that you’ll never again eat birthday cake because you don’t want to erase the magical taste of the frosting on his lips. That you wake up every day wondering why you got to live and he didn’t. That on the first afternoon of your first real vacation, you sit in front of the ocean, face hot under the giant sun, willing him to give you a sign that he’s okay.

Want to know more? I'll keep it short.

California sun seems like the ideal ingredient for a summer romance, right? Except when you've already loved someone--someone you know longer have. In Twenty Boy Summer, Anna's best friend, Frankie, is determined to find a boyfriend for Anna by getting her to meet one boy each day for twenty days. Sounds like a plan, but everybody knows relationship is built on quality not quantity. Then again, Frankie is a teenager. I remember being pretty adamant about having a boyfriend back in high school, and I probably would have gone along with Frankie's plan because meeting 20 boys would have been better than none and maybe, just maybe, true love would appear like a fairy tale. But, this is not Anna's reason. See, Anna has already had a summer romance--a summer romance with Frankie's older brother that would have gone through may more seasons had it not been for the hand of tragedy. Frankie does not know this. Anna's love died with Frankie's brother, yet Anna has to go along with the 20 boy plan to protect her secret.

The book is much more than this though. It's a coming-of age novel touching on first love, teen intimacy, loss, grief, friendship, and the value of honesty. It's really more about their friendship, the ways in which Anna and Frankie have changed, the secrets they keep from one another, and the betrayals they face by their own actions. Anna doesn't hold anything back in her voice...the author, Sarah Ockler, manages to get into the immediacey of the experience through a realistic portrayal of a teenage girl. This is Anna.

The guilt of not telling Frankie about Matt and me is overwhelming, but it is a pale second to the violation I feel that she read my most private, raw thoughts and destroyed them. She broke into my carefully guarded heart, stole the only memories of Matt I had to myself, and turned them into a monstrosity.