Ockler, Sarah. (2009). Twenty Boy Summer. New York: Hachette Book Group.
Textbook Chapter: 4
Subgenre: Realistic Fiction
Twenty Boy Summer is a novel about two teenage girls, Frankie and Anna, who are lifelong best friends, neighbors, and practically sisters. Frankie’s older brother, Matt, was also extremely close to his sister and Anna, and the three were basically inseparable. However, Matt and Anna begin to be more than just friends, and they fall in love. Before they can tell Frankie or really act on their feelings, Matt dies in a car crash due to a heart condition, but Frankie and Anna survive the accident. The story continues a year later as Anna continues to try to protect Frankie from being hurt and travels with Frankie and her parents to California on vacation. While there, Frankie and Anna challenge themselves to meet at least 20 different guys, and Frankie tries desperately to help Anna find a guy with which to lose her virginity. While in California, Anna and Frankie meet two guys, Jake and Sam, and eventually Anna does lose her virginity to Sam. After this, Frankie finds out about Anna and Matt and is devastated by the secret Anna had hidden from her. As it turns out, Frankie was actually a virgin, and had been lying to Anna all along. After a terrible fight, the girls eventually work things out when they get home, and Frankie even accepts the fact that Anna and Matt were in love. Frankie gave Anna Matt’s most prized possession, his turquoise sea glass necklace, and the girls remain best friends despite their grief.
Personal Reaction/ Why Teens Would Want to Read this Book:
I really enjoyed this book. I can tell it is written more for high school students, as the vocabulary, sentence structure, and content are more mature than several of the other books I have read for this class. I thought the story was heart wrenching, and the author does an excellent job of describing the protagonists’ feelings of loss, love, and betrayal. I think teens would want to read this book because many of them can relate to the main characters. Although most teens have not lost a sibling, they have continued to search to find someone to love them, despite their past. Teens will be able to relate to the feelings that the author describes about finding love, friendship, and acts of rebellion. There was some sexual content in the book, as one of the main characters loses her virginity to her summer love. However, the book does mention that they use a condom, which relates back to the article I read about contraceptive use in teen novels. It is rare to find a book where condom use is talked about, and I am glad they included that part in the novel. Overall, I think this is an excellent book and I can see how it might be a favorite among high school girls.
Why was this book banned?
Twenty Boy Summer was challenged in a Missouri school district in 2010 because it was “soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and pre-marital sex.” An associate professor at a Missouri college is the person who challenged the book because it taught things that opposed the views of the Bible. As of July, 2011, the schools in Republic, Missouri removed this book from their shelves as a result of a school board vote to ban the book. This created a lot of uproar in the community, and students at a nearby college protested by holding public readings of the book on campus. Another book, Slaughterhouse Five, was also removed from the shelves.
I can see how this book would be perceived in a negative way if some of the scenes and descriptions of the novel were taken out of context. However, the main point of the novel is not to glorify drinking, cursing, or premarital sex; instead, it is to discuss how the teens are dealing with the death of a sibling and boyfriend. The drinking, cursing, and sex were the result of negative choices made by the characters as they dealt with their grief, and the book ends with resolution that the characters were not happy with their choices and are going back on the right path. The book is more about overcoming obstacles and maintaining friendships during tough times, than about sex and drinking!
All of the reviews that I read for this book were positive. The review from Booklist raved about the way that Anna, one of the main characters, approached the tragedies and issues in her life with great maturity. The review also states that the mix of romance, tragedy, and drama will draw in many teen readers. A review from Children’s Literature is also glowing. The review notes that the characters are well developed and the reader will feel compassion for the characters and their difficult situations. The review does mention the fact that there is explicit sexual discussion, but also states that this book would be a great discussion starter for teens dealing with loss. Overall, the reviews were very positive!
*I did not find any awards that the book had won at this time.