“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you’re doing, but they don’t really want to know. They seek affirmation that you’re okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (its three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that’s about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).”
Less about grief and more about coming back to life, Twenty Boy Summer catalogs Anna’s return to life. It covers friendship, trust, truth, death, grief, secrets, forgiveness, family, swimsuits, sunburns, sneaking out, virginity, and the fact that no matter how hard you try you can’t make someone else okay—they have to do that for themselves. Sarah Ockler tackles these questions through Anna’s eyes and you see all of her pain, her guilt, the loyalty she feels toward both Frankie and Matt, the pull of her new feelings for Sam, and the overwhelming pressure all this places on her shoulders. Ockler’s lyrical and at times profound prose guides you through the twenty days Anna and Frankie spend at Zanzibar Bay. Highly quotable, pieces of Twenty Boy Summer can be pulled out of context and applied to so many lives and so many situations. I was highly impressed by the quality of the writing and the beauty of some of Ockler’s phrasing. I felt as though she also did a good job showing how people react differently to loss, how differently people grieve. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the ending—this, however, is probably a highly subjective point and I can easily see how many people would disagree with me. Overall, Twenty Boy Summer is more than worth the read and Sarah Ockler is an author to keep on your radar for the years to come. I have a feeling her talent with words is only going to get stronger.