Matt and Frankie are brother and sister and live next door to Anna. The three of them are best friends and inseparable. Until one day, Anna and Matt strike up a relationship that is more than friendship. Madly in love, but keeping it a secret to protect Frankie's feelings, they have one month together. Matt promises Anna he'll tell Frankie when they're on their family vacation, but tragedy strikes before it can happen.
Anna feels bound by this secret and never tells Frankie. The next summer, Frankie's parents take the girls on the traditional trip to California and Frankie and Anna determine to have the best summer ever and meet 20 boys, one of whom can hopefully give them new life.
First of all, the writing in this book is fantastic, at times downright beautiful. I could feel everything. Anna's grief, hope, attraction to the boy she meets, the sand under her feet, the fragile blossoming of hope in her heart. It knotted up my stomach at times and made it really hard for me to put this book down. It certainly recalled all those feelings of first attraction and being young and taking risks. But underneath all of that was the very true grief Anna and Frankie and Frankie's parents were all dealing with. It manifested in different ways and at different times for each character but I mention it because this isn't your typical beach romance sort of book.
I liked Anna...I sympathized with her and I was sorry for all that she had lost. It's impossible to ever replace a friend who has been your friend since birth and then becomes your first love. But I was also frustrated with her. I felt she should have shared her relationship because she was never able to properly grieve or share in grief because of it.
I do have to mention one thing that bothered me a bit about the book. One of the goals of the summer is to relieve Anna of her virginity. In fact, she and Frankie refer to it as her albatross. Anna's attitude towards this is probably seen as progressive, but to me it was treated quite casually and parents may want to be aware that this element exists in the book. I would also mention that there's lots of lying and sneaking around behind the parents backs...but the two girls are quite astute and aware that Frankie's parents lack of diligent concern does not equal love.
Overall, I really liked this book. The writing is beautiful, the characters are real, and it's a touching exploration of grief, loss of love, and friendship. I do think this is the sort of YA book that would appeal to readers of all ages.
Things You Might Want to Know: So yes there's a bit of sex and a bit of language.
20 Boy Summer is published by Little, Brown and Sarah Ockler has a blog and is on Twitter. The book technically publishes in June, but I've heard it's already making it's way out now.