25 September, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer - Banned Book Review


Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Publication Date: 1 June 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN 10/13: 0316051594 | 9780316051590

Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Keywords: Contemporary, romance, death
Format: Hardcover (also available in paperback and eBook)

Alethea's note: The synopsis at the beginning seems to give away major plot points, but it really doesn't--you'll find the same info in the jacket copy :) So don't fret!


Thuy's Synopsis: 

Anna, Frankie and Matt have been best friends forever. She and Frankie are like sisters and Matt (Frankie's brother) is her best-friend-that's-a-boy. On her fifteenth birthday, Anna's deepest desire comes true when Matt kisses her. Matt convinces Anna not to tell Frankie about their relationship just yet. He wants to tell her in a few weeks during their annual family vacation to California. 

Anna doesn't like keeping secrets from Frankie but she agrees, believing that Matt knows what's best for his sister. They spend the next month meeting secretly at night and stealing moments with each other when they can. Then the unthinkable happens. Matt dies, leaving Anna and his family grief-stricken. Anna decides never to tell Frankie about what happened between her and Matt. 

A year later, Frankie's parents decide to make the trip back out to California and invite Anna along. Frankie decides to make this the Twenty Boy Summer, but how can Anna think about meeting boys when the only one she ever cared about is gone? 

Thuy's Review: 

Contemporary YA fiction isn't usually my favorite but I couldn't put this book down. Twenty Boy Summer is a beautifully written and emotionally intense account of love, friendship, loss and finding the strength to move on. My own heart felt like it was breaking at times and I teared up more than once (which I never do). 

Both Anna and Frankie are really great characters. They are emotionally complex and are dealing with their loss in different ways. Anna is the strong one, always looking out for Frankie and putting her own feelings away. Instead, she writes in her journal and pens heartfelt letters to Matt that he'll never see. 

A sweet new summer romance throws Anna into a new maelstrom of emotions. I really understood what Anna was feeling--the conflict and guilt she feels as well as the overwhelming loss of what might have been. Frankie is a fascinating character. It's obvious that the wounds from Matt's death are still raw. She's dealing with it in her own way, becoming a boy crazy super-shopper almost overnight. I admit that I was often annoyed by her, as she seemed oblivious to Anna's feelings most of the time. However, by the end of the book, I started to understand Frankie a little more and she began to grow on me.

Despite the heavy subject, this book was surprisingly funny. Anna and Frankie's conversations sound like what I imagine real 16-year-olds sound like. Frankie especially with her strange vocabulary mishaps made me laugh. I also loved the descriptions of the California coast. Ockler's depiction of a summer beach vacation was spot on and it made me want to run out to the boardwalk for an ice cream cone and walk along the shore.

Though this book would be great at any time, I recommend reading it outside, at the beach or park if possible. Then settle yourself in for a few hours and let this book transport you to the coast and into an incredibly touching story that will stay with you long after summer is over.


BANNED BOOK STORY

Twenty Boy Summer was banned earlier this year in the district of Republic, Missouri library system. In an excerpt from this article (taken from Sarah Ockler's site), quotes Superintendent Vern Minor:
Minor said feedback [from the committee] for “Twenty Boy Summer,” available in the library, focused on “sensationalizing sexual promiscuity.” He said questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse by the characters led to the recommendation. 
“I just don’t think it’s a good book. I don’t think it’s consistent with these standards and the kind of message that we want to send,” he said. “…If the book had ended on a different note, I might have thought differently.”
Now I am not sure what he means about "sensationalizing sexual promiscuity." Yes, there is sex in the book. One character has sex with another character that she cares about. It's done tastefully and respectfully. Is it the fact that the character doesn't regret her actions that make them inconsistent with the school's standards of behavior?

Not every teen regrets staying out late or getting drunk or lying to their parents. Banning the book and pretending this behavior doesn't exist does not make it so. And just because a teen reads about a character doing something in a book, it doesn't mean that they're going to do the same thing. If parents want their children to make good choices, I think it's up to them to be aware of what their children are reading and watching and to talk to them about it.

To me, it comes down to choice. People should be free to choose what they read. Censorship takes that choice away. I would much rather read a book and not agree with it than not be given the choice to read it at all.

say "twee!"

Visit the author at www.sarahockler.com and follow @sarahockler on Twitter.


For more of Thuy's reviews, check out the adult book reviews at RNSL Nite Lite, friend her on Goodreads, and follow @fishgirl182 on Twitter.

7 comments:

  1. Update on the situation: The books are back in the library, but a parent has to go to the school and check it out for their teen. What?

    http://sarahockler.com/2011/09/20/banned-books-compromise-im-not-touching-him/#comments

    If your blood pressure needs a nice boost, go read the comments. ;D

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  2. I heard about this book because it was banned, and it's on my TBR pile. Cant' wait to get into it. :-D

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  3. @ebony me, too! i wanted to read it more after i heard it was banned.

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  4. I'm about half way through and it's so tender and heartbreaking.
    I'm having an early night to read some more.

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  5. isn't it? it's a really sweet story and i don't understand why they would ban it. i hope you enjoy the ending!

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  6. Ahhhhhhhh. Finished it. I felt drained by the end, it was so poignant and heartfelt and painful. Yet it never crossed the line into maudlin or melodrama.

    Having read the whole thing, I do understand why parents or people on a school board would get upset. Anna and Frankie could lie for America.
    Anna doesn't merely have sex before marriage, she goes back for seconds! Scandalous!

    BUT, having read the whole thing, I do get a very strong sense of remorse on Anna and Frankie's part at the end. They're not simply lying for the fun of it. Frankie is lying to her parents and to Anna as a cry for help. Anna is lying because she's trying to support Frankie and be the strong one.

    Sometimes we desperately want to help our friends, but sometimes that help is not what's best for them.

    These are such grey areas, which is what makes for a marvellous book. Ockler hasn't given Anna the choice between good and bad, she's given her the choice between 'sucky and suckier'.

    Reality does that all the time.

    By reading this book, by developing empathy, readers can safely experience so many things without ending up in the same mess Anna and Frankie find themselves in.

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  7. Yes, I think that empathy is very important. Reading about different experiences is one way to develop it. And just because someone does something in a book, it doesn't mean that the reader is going to do the same thing. In fact, they could decide not to do it based on what happens to the character.

    I think both Frankie and Anna show remarkable strength in a terrible situation.

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