Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Five dragons for the way it made me feel. Four for the actual story. Averaged out gives me 4.5 dragons.

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I really wish Sarah Ockler had picked a different title than Twenty Boy Summer. First, it nearly made me skip over this book. This title sounds like… like…well:

“’Twenty days for what?’

‘Twenty boys.’

I think she’s joking, but her eyes are set. I must stop this madness before she has us buying the family pack of condoms at the pharmacy.”

Yeah it sounds like that. And I was not interested in reading that book so I would have skipped this and I would have missed out.

You may be wondering why I did choose to read this book. There’s a person on Goodreads whose opinion I greatly admire and she read this book and her review was intensely personal. It told about her loss and how this book touched her and I couldn’t turn away from that. Also, she was my English teacher and I believe that teachers are similar to celebrities and I wanted to know more.

But there’s another reason the title should be different. This book really isn’t about a “Twenty Boy Summer.” It’s about heartbreak and finding out if you can move forward. It’s about grief and how we hold on to it and don’t share it with anyone because that would feel too much like letting it go. This book is about how we can become strangers to those we love because we are just too damn sad and it’s about coming back together for a chance at healing.

The basic idea is Anna is taking a vacation with her best friend Frankie’s family with a competition to meet twenty boys in twenty days. The depth comes from the fact that Anna had a secret relationship with Frankie’s brother just before he died one year ago. She has kept her promise to keep it a secret for the last year no matter how much it has hurt her and now she’s trying to figure out if she’s ready to move on and what it will mean if she does.

“I’ll never know exactly what I lost, how much it should hurt, how long I should keep thinking about him.” 

The writing is beautifully poetic without being experimental or overdone. I found myself tearing up more than once and not just because of my personal connection to the subject matter. It was written well enough and originally enough to draw me in and keep me reading to find out how Anna grows.

The cover technically fits as it is a heart made of broken pieces of memory. But paired with the title it gives the vibe that this is a simple beach read that’ll make you feel light and fuzzy. It is not. If you’ve ever lost someone this will remind you of all the grief and the day you realized you weren’t going to weep at the mention of their name.

There isn’t much more I can say about this to recommend it. You either know why this book is worth it or you don’t and hopefully never will. This book is the literary form of a thestral.

For Hannah.

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