PJV QUICKIE: Twenty Boy Summer is a bittersweet story about lost love, keeping secrets, and letting go.  Pack this one into your beach bag.

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
ISBN: 0316051586
Publication: May 1, 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source:  Personal copy
Links: Author Web >> Author Twitter >> Purchase Book >>Goodreads
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Review

Anna Reiley and Frankie and Matt Perino have been BFFs as long as Anna can remember. Next door neighbors since birth, they are inseparable.   But Anna has a secret – she’s had a crush on Matt since she was ten, and Matt finally told her he feels the same way about her.  Matt wants to wait until his family goes on their annual summer vacation to tell his little sister Frankie, and Anna promises to keep their secret until then.   But now Matt is dead and he never got to tell Frankie.  As much as she wants to tell Frankie, Anna has been honoring Matt’s wish and keeping their secret smiles and stolen kisses in her heart and in her journal.

Now it’s a year after Matt’s unexpected death, and the Perino family is going on their annual beach vacation.  This year they’ve invited Anna to go.  It’s been difficult for everyone since Matt died, and Anna doesn’t know if this vacation is going to help Frankie and her parents recover from Matt’s death or shatter their fragile facade of normalcy.

Frankie’s gotten a little wild since Matt died, and has made it her mission to help Anna lose her “V-card” on this trip.  She makes Anna pledge that they’ll meet 20 boys over the summer.  Anna doesn’t tell Frankie she doesn’t want 20 boys, she only wants one; one very special boy who’s gone forever.

Then Anna meets Sam, and when she’s around Sam, she’s not thinking about Matt.  She can’t decide if that’s what she wants though; if it is, why is she feeling so guilty about it?

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Twenty Boy Summer was not at all what I expected, but I really enjoyed it.  Anna is a wonderful character, perched in that difficult place between being a child and being a woman.  She’s a smart girl, but she’s not perfect; that’s one of the things I adore about her.  I found her very relatable and a realistic teen character; she was responsible, but made mistakes, as all teens do.

I felt completely the opposite about Frankie, Anna’s BFF:  She is selfish and annoying.  Without giving away any spoilers, I felt like she pushed Anna into behaviors that she would not have otherwise participated in.  That being said  – I had friends like Frankie when I was a teen, so she felt like a “real” character to me, and I am probably a bit biased in my opinion 🙂  I didn’t care for her parents either.

Twenty Boy Summer is beautifully written, flowing from present to past and back again.  Although he’s deceased, Matt’s presence in Anna’s life is prominent:

I never saw you in a bikini, I imagine him saying.
You didn’t live long enough, I think.
But twenty, Anna?  Does it have to be twenty? What about five? Or three?  Or one?
What do you care?  You’re dead, remember?

But Matt was not the only hero in this story – I also loved Sam.  He’s the kind of boy every girl should have the chance to date – polite, understanding, cute, and a good listener (apparently a good kisser too!).  It’s refreshing to read a teen hero who’s not picking on the heroine.

Sara Ockler writes realistic characters and vibrant images – I could see the boardwalk and feel the sunshine and smell the salty air as I read.  While her subject is sad, the story is sweet and leaves the reader feeling hopeful.  The last few paragraphs were the perfect way to end the story.

Recommendations:

Fans of YA and readers looking for a beach read.  (Be aware there are scenes with teen drinking and sexual situations)

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1.  Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
2.  A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley