According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every 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 her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.
TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.
Review: Contemporary literature is always a tricky genre to pull off. Often, I find that Contemporary YA forces the reader to accept (or at least try to accept) overtly dramatic situations that border on melodrama while claiming the characters are down to earth and relate-able for the YA audience. Most of the time, I just don’t buy it. Yes, I understand that sometimes life throws you curve balls, but it takes real talent as a writer to make these curve balls in literature feel like realistic tragedies rather than simply a vehicle for their character to experience conflict and learn from it. Contemporary literature prides itself on being realistic, soooo different from all that paranormal stuff, so I tend to be a little tough on it.
That being said…I really enjoyed Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer. Part of the reason I liked the novel was because of the many things it wasn’t…. For starters, while the tragedy that starts the novel could be construed as a little out there, the tragedy is not the focus of the novel. It’s what happens after the tragedy that makes up this story. The opening chapters start with a thrilling first kiss between Anna and the doomed Matt. As a reader, you simply fall in love with the chemistry between the two. Ockler is kinda a genius when she does this, because when Matt dies the reader laments the loss of a great could-have-been YA couple. It’s a great way for Ockler to connect the reader with Anna’s pain. The reader wonders what could have been right along with her.
Yes, Anna does find more romance on her summer vacation. Here, again, Ockler shows a bit of brilliance. The whole time Anna explored this new relationship I kept complaining that I had no idea who this male character was. I couldn’t get a true sense of him. He just wasn’t fleshed out enough for my taste. But that’s exactly why it works. She isn’t meeting the boy of her dreams. She’s meeting the boy she needs at the time. Not all relationships end with riding out in the sunset. I wish more YA books would acknowledge this. Ockler alludes that it’s not the boy whose so important in the latter half of the novel, but rather Anna’s search for herself.
Not everything in this novel worked for me. I thought the character of Anna’s best friend, Frankie was a little predictable. I also felt the novel didn’t really follow the cover-blurb or title. Despite these minor complaints, Twenty Boy Summer is an enjoyable, voice-driven book that would make the Contemporary YA genre proud.