Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

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.

So reads the back of the rather fliply titled Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (2010). Rather than being about the bet between best friends Anna and Frankie to spend their California beach vacation seeing who can pull the most boys, the book is really about friendship, loss, moving on with your life, and the way those who know and love you best can hurt you the most.

Told in first-person from Anna's point-of-view, the book covers dealing with the loss of Matt, Frankie's brother and Anna's first love. Only, Frankie and the rest of the people around them don't realize that Anna and Matt started a secret relationship a year ago, right before Matt's unexpected death, and they only know the three as the longtime best of friends.

When Frankie and her parents head to California, they take Anna with them. The girls decide to have three weeks where no one knows about Matt and his death, where they can just be teenage girls, hanging on the beach and looking to meet boys.

I loved, loved, loved Anna and the entire story. I loved the friendship between the girls and how Anna does her best to protect Frankie, I loved the way we see how the sweet relationship between Anna and Matt unfolded, and I loved the way Anna and Frankie grow and change during their three weeks on vacation.

My overall personal rating of Twenty Boy Summer is an A-.


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