Anna is a beautiful protagonist. Determined to keep her secret from her best friend, she’s never able to let Frankie know the extent of her grief over Matt’s death.
"Every morning, I wake up and forget just for a second that it happened. But once my eyes open, it buries me like a landslide of sharp, sad rocks. Once my eyes open, I’m heavy, like there’s to much gravity on my heart."
She’s selfless, pushing back her emotions in order to be the best possible friend to Frankie, putting Frankie’s feelings and grief before her own, and she’s heartbreaking, succumbing to the pain of losing Matt when she thinks no one’s looking. She’s the best friend Frankie could ever ask for, despite the lies she feels she’s forced to tell her everyday. I loved watching her work through her grief, using a summer fling with a surfer boy to help her realize that no one could ever erase Matt, that she could learn to love again, and that her loss might not always be so heavy a burden to carry.
I think Ockler’s treatment of a family in mourning was one of my favorite aspects of Twenty Boy Summer. Frankie’s family was volatile, with the smallest of things setting one of them off. Every happy moment felt like it was stolen, like their grief was timing itself for the perfect reminder that it was a constant. It made for a page-turning read, as I waited for a seemingly happy moment to be destroyed by a glass of spilt coke. It also brought out the most raw and honest truths, with one or more family members laying their heart on the line, daring someone to break it all over again. And Ockler is a master at repeatedly breaking hearts.
"Weeping is not the same thing as crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it’s over, you feel like you don’t have any bones left to hold you up."
I just loved everything about Twenty Boy Summer. Anna and Frankie’s friendship made me nostaltic for the type of summer where I could spend every day scheming the next big adventure, or the latest plan to capture a boy’s heart, with my friends. I loved that Anna saw her relationship with Sam for what it was, and that I was ok with them having mere weeks together. I loved that Anna and Frankie both got closure, of a sort. And I love that I closed the book with a smile on my face and tears running down my cheeks.