There’s sadness and crying and loss. Anna still can’t tell Frankie the truth because she promised (the now dead) Matt she wouldn’t. Even though he’s dead. Because she promised. Okay, moving on.
What better way to forget about your problems then go on a family tradition month-long trip to the beach? To fill the empty space the now dead Matt left, the family invites Anna to join them. The girls (mostly Frankie) decide they will meet/hit on/be hit on by/make out with/have sex with at least 20 boys. Because Frankie lost her v-card already and now it’s time for Anna to lose hers. But Anna’s still hung up on Matt. But she can’t tell Frankie that because she promised Matt. Who’s now dead.
The majority of the book takes place during that month-long trip, so it’s not all sadness and gloom. There’s sun and sand a’plenty. There’s also tanned surfer boys. And therein lies Anna’s problem. If she likes cutie patootie Sam, does that mean she doesn’t love Matt anymore? Or that she never did? How long should she hold onto his memory? Because nobody knew about Anna and Matt’s relationship (big secret, remember?), Anna is not able to grieve in the way other people are. She has to worry about being there for her best friend who lost her brother. How can you get over a loss that you never really had?
The besties meet a couple of guys that they bond with and start spending most of their time with them. Despite Anna’s misgivings, she finds herself enjoying Sam’s company.
The characters are all very real and well-developed. Their actions and thoughts are believable and honest. They speak to each other just like you or I would. They have depth and emotions that draw you right in. The girls do all the teenage things you expect, they act out, drink, make out and spend a lot of time worrying about how they look.
The writing is excellent (in fact, I’m surprised this was Ockler’s debut novel) and the pace is right on. There is a bit of a graphic sex scene (it’s honest and real graphic, not porn graphic).
Okcler does an amazing job of setting the scenes, you really feel like you are there with Anna and Frankie on the beach, with toes in the sand and sun on the face.
One of my favorite quotes comes as Frankie and Anna are angry at each other, but trying not to let Frankie’s parents know, as they play a game of paddleball on the beach:
"After half an hour of forced family fun, in which I score fifty points and take out at least seventy-five percent of my anger trying to blast Frankie with the ball, our game is cut short. Princess gets stung on the top of her foot by a teeny-tiny newborn baby of a jelly-fish and carries on like some shark just swam away with her torso."
The entire book is peppered with fun visual images like this, little nuggets of snark and teenage angst.
The Sum Up: Twenty Boy Summer is a fantastic, fun read that will pass by so quickly you’ll wish it was longer.