Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer tells the story of Anna as she deals with the grief of the death of the guy she always loved. The thing is, after years of admiration from afar, Anna and Matt only acted on their feelings for each other a short while before his death. And did I mention that Matt happened to be Anna’s best friend Frankie’s brother and she promised him she wouldn’t tell Frankie about their secret, but rather leave it to him during family vacation. A year later, their vacation is finally rescheduled so that Anna and Frankie’s family can try to cope with Matt’s death, while Anna continues to struggle with the secret she holds so dear.
In this poignant young adult novel, Ockler takes the typical beach read novel – two girls and a beach and a hunt for guys – and expands upon it, creating a rich story about the trials of friendship and love. While Ockler could gone further with her use of the first person narrative to really expand on Anna’s inner emotions, I still felt that the reader was able to pick up on and relate to Anna’s raw grief, confusion, and frustration. Though Twenty Boy Summer doesn’t have the usual happily-ever-after ending, Ockler’s ending is as uplifting as would be suitable for the story and I was thankful for its grounding in reality as I believe this contributed to the impact of the story. Beyond the text, the cover is absolutely lovely and I was pleased to find how meaningful the pieces of sea glass are. More than anything else, I felt that Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer taught the lesson of appreciating every moment you have – a lesson that will resonate with every reader. 10 out of 10.