you know how when you have a crush on someone and you sort of babble incoherently. . .

October 20, 2010

that’s how i feel about this book.

i’ve been putting off writing this entry because i feel like i won’t be able to do it justice.  i’ve decided to give it a try though. . . so here comes my review/thoughts on Sarah Ockler’s (@sarahockler on Twitter) Twenty Boy Summer.

i first decided that i HAD to read this book when our lovely friend Mr. Wesley Scroggins wrote about it in his opinion piece where he called Speak pornography.  It was the only book he wrote about that i hadn’t read and i admit i laughed out loud (in the midst of my anger and sadness and rage and whatever else) when i read this line in his article: “In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex.”  Damn those crazy kids for using their condoms!  Teen pregnancy would have really saved the day here, right?!?

i was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Twenty Boy Summer the next time i went to the library.  i checked it out and to be honest with you i’ve had it ever since.  i’m actually only making myself write this now because i’ve renewed it the maximum number of times and i have to take it back to the library soon.  i read it the same day i checked it out and i’ve just had it sitting in my room ever since.  Sometimes i’ll flip through it, sometimes i’ll just look at it and smile, sometimes i sort of wish it were a person i could hug or have a two sided conversation with.  (i know i’ll be able to solve this when i get my own copy- not the two sided conversation part but, you know. . .)  And that’s the thing, i will get my own copy of this book because it was amazing and lovely and incredible.

The premise: Anna and her best friend Frankie are going on vacation together and decide to make a game out of finding a summer romance (sort of): one boy a day for twenty days.  However, Anna is still in love with Matt, Frankie’s brother who died a year earlier and Frankie doesn’t know.

i brought up the sort of because this plan is actually started because Frankie is attempting to help Anna with a project they have named “Anna’s Albatross” which is code for Anna’s virginity.  She figures twenty boys in twenty days will provide a good prospect for Anna.

Now when i write all that it sort of makes it seem like this book is like one of those silly movies about losing one’s virginity and there are lots of innuendos.

BUT  it’s not.  At all.

This book is about loss and friendship and love and the ways people grieve and growing up.  And there’s the sex part.  But in the grand scheme of things, it’s. . .tiny.

i adore the flow of the book and the way Sarah Ockler seems to so easily draw you in to the ebb and flow of Anna’s thoughts.  There are books i read and all of the sudden i’ll start wondering what happened to this character or that situation instead of focusing on what is happening on the page in front of me but it wasn’t like that with this book.  My attention was held exactly where it was supposed to be.

Of course, there are painful moments in the book but Sarah Ockler does an awesome job of making them real.  The sad moments aren’t sappy, they’re rough and almost a little hard to read.  The embarrassing parts aren’t cheesy, they are the kind that make your face flush with the remembrance of your own mortifying moments.

i have to give props because this book does something many other books and movies don’t do. . .it doesn’t skip parts.  i use that phrase because there is a movie that covers this topic called Skipped Parts it has Bug Hall and a young Mischa Barton and it’s about sex and how most books and movies go from something like, “He kissed me and wrapped his arms around me and we melted together.” to, “The next morning we woke up knowing nothing would be the same.”  The implication of sex is there but it is never explicit.  In Twenty Boy Summer it isn’t skipped.  Don’t get me wrong there is NOTHING graphic about it but the part isn’t skipped and i love the book even more for it.  (And there IS mention of condoms and those are another one of those “skipped parts” that there needs to be more sight of.)

There are also silly parts.  These parts reminded me of little things my friends and i would say or think or do together.  Anna and Frankie’s story about their two new friends who are girls (but are really boys they don’t want Frankie’s parents to know about) is just like this and provides laugh out loud moments.  But like the rest of the book none of it tries too hard, it is the perfect level of silly so that it doesn’t cross into eye-rolling, sighing, wishing it would move along territory.

But my absolute favorite part of the book is neatly wrapped up in a few sentences.  I’ll share one set here and the other i’ll leave out because while they aren’t spoiler-y they come later in the book and i want to leave them for you to discover (although if you’ve read the book and want to know let me know and we can discuss.)

Every story is part of a whole, entire life, you know?  Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but an entire life.  And books let you know them.”

Sarah Ockler, i love you for writing that.  It is so lovely and concise and true.  And this book follows it.

Like i said when i started this, i know i can’t do this justice.  All i can say is read this book.  i mean it.  It is rare for me to find a really good book that runs the gamut of emotions without leaving me feeling a little seasick from going back and forth between one thing and another and this book is one of them.  i also more than appreciate authors who can show the ugly without being overly dramatic or annoying about it.  Sarah Ockler gets it.  She does what i strive to do, take these snapshots of life and bring them to life in a way that makes you feel like you’re really seeing that sort of blurry imperfect picture.  And i love that- i don’t want the perfect crisp movie version of life.

So read the book.  That is all.


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