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Twenty Boy Summer

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"Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?"
"Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?"

According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.

290 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2009

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About the author

Sarah Ockler

9 books2,332 followers
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of six young adult novels: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, #scandal, The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah, and Twenty Boy Summer. Her books have been translated into several languages and have received numerous accolades, including ALA's Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls' Life Top 100 Must Reads, Indie Next List, and nominations for YALSA Teens' Top Ten and NPR's Top 100 Teen Books.

Sarah is a champion cupcake eater, tea drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she's not writing or reading at home in New York City, she enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.

Visit her website at sarahockler.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,628 reviews
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,030 reviews1,044 followers
March 17, 2017
3.5 stars!

Twenty Boy Summer is certainly not what I expected and I don’t mean that in a negative way. In my opinion, this novel has a particularly originality to it that I couldn’t quite express eloquently but perhaps you’ll understand when you read the book. I picked this book up hoping to enjoy some warmth and fluff from a Summery read and although the story is in many parts heartwarming, there is nothing fluffy about it. In fact, it was mostly a sad read and I have to admit that I had to sniffle several times.

Written in Ms. Sarah Ockler’s beautiful writing, this is a story about two best friends who try to move on after the death of one of the most important persons in both their lives by trying to hide and bury their grief in vacation and summer fun and attempting to meet twenty different boys for the duration of their summer. I don’t completely agree with their idea of fun and that’s probably my main complaint about the novel but to each her own, right?. In the end, the two girls achieve something they might not want but definitely need.
392 reviews331 followers
September 11, 2010
Nothing ever really goes away - it just changes into something else. Something beautiful.

Don’t let the light and fluffy title of this book deceive you. This book will make you cry, break your heart and then fill it up with hope again.

Twenty Boy Summer is an unforgettable story about friendships, love, loss, and finding the courage to let go. This book was an emotional roller coaster ride, it made me smile one moment, cry the next, smile some more, cry again but at the end it left me feeling good.

Sarah Ockler writing flows beautiful and has a lyrical feel to it. I always note my favourite quotes when reading a book and this one had so many that I loved, I had a hard time choosing just one to include in my review.

I liked Anna she was a relatable character who I cared about and just wanted everything for her to turn out okay. But Frankie I struggle to like at times, she was too self centred, but I guess that is the way she dealt with her loss and by the end she mature somewhat. Matt and Sam were both sweet and amazing guys.

Overall I loved it and it will easily find a home on my favourites shelf.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,096 reviews565 followers
August 26, 2015
One of the great things about Goodreads is that I get to capture books along the way, of which I normally would not. This little cutie, a YA that I added on what I honestly think was almost on day one of GR, I actually came across just last week at my library. It was withdrawn, and only published in 2009... I thought this a shame, but gleefully snapped it up for 20c.

This was a nice reminisce, I know there are no rules for who should read what, but I did feel funny looking back on those feelings I used to have - albeit through two young teens that I thought much, cooler and ‘together’ than I was at that age! Was I really that shy? Probably! Am I the intended audience for this? Probably not!

This was a sweet coming of age, the mourning of the death of both brother and boyfriend for two best girlfriends, and the way they realise this unique relationship that each actually did hold to this boy. The loss of the boyfriend is not forever, as it was something that was not yet known, and such early days.

These two girls were young and quirky, especially when together. The ‘clever’ one kept correcting the not so one on the mis-use of words. Like chartreuse/obtuse Heidelberg/Hindenburg exacerbate/exasperate provokial/parochial, you get the drift.

The parents were a bit clueless, as were mine.. But I’m not going to be! I'm glad I read this, a genre that I just don't really read much of, maybe this has taught me something too!
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,188 reviews2,892 followers
May 30, 2009
First off, let me just say that I LOVE the cover for this book! And I love that the book has all these references to sea glass, just like the awesomely beautiful cover. Genius!

And the pages between the fantastic cover are just as awesome. This was undeniably one of my most favorite debut novels this year. Anna and Frankie were phenomenal characters. I totally understood Anna, I got her right away, but it took me the entire novel to finally get Frankie. Incredible. Ockler's depiction of Anna's emotions was beyond spectacular, I can't even begin to imagine how it felt to write that, because I know how it made me feel reading it. Wow.

And how fantastic was the writing! I felt like I was summering in California and I have yet to visit! It was that good. Absolutely captivating. If you pick up one book this summer and are looking for more than chick lit fluff (not that chick lit fluff is bad, because personally I love it) I would recommend you pick this one up.
Profile Image for Arlene.
1,156 reviews641 followers
January 10, 2011
Like the stars, fading with the halo of the vanishing moon. Like the ocean, falling and whispering against the shore. Nothing ever really goes away - it just changes into something else. Something beautiful.

Don’t know why I put off reading Twenty Boy Summer for so long, but I’m very glad I was challenged to read this book sooner than later. I really.really.really enjoyed this story! It has all the ingredients of a well-written and perfectly plotted YA contemporary novel, and I fell for the characters immediately... from beginning to end.

Now the plot seems a bit heavy at first glance because it involves a first love that dies too soon. Anna has had a crush on Matt, her best friend, since she was ten years old and on her fifteen birthday he reveals his true feelings for her and their light romance takes off. However, it’s a bit complicated because Matt’s sister is also Anna’s dear friend and Matt struggles with finding a way to share his true feelings for Anna to his sister Frankie, so they put it off and the unspeakable occurs. Matt’s life is stripped away too soon and the rest of the novel takes you on a journey of the meaning of friendship, grief and forgiveness.

I came to care for all of the characters in this novel, especially and surprisingly the summer fling, Sam. I liked how the author left the ending slightly unfinished when it came to Sam because it allowed my imagination to float to my own conclusion for him and Anna possibly crossing paths in the future.

Overall, I feel fans of books such as The Sky Is Everywhere, Winter Longing and The Truth about Forever will enjoy Ockler’s novel Twenty Boy Summer. Don’t miss out on this great novel that would make the perfect beach read.

Thanks to Flannery for challenging me to read this book. You rock! XD
Profile Image for Ariie.
2 reviews
April 1, 2017
Let me start by saying that I thought this was going to be good. I really did.

But no. I absolutely hated this book. If you put Anna and Frankie's bullshit and Bella Swan's bullshit right beside each other, I might actually choose Bella's bullshit over this.

I reckon they are all on the same wavelength of stupidity. (Especially Bella and Frankie.) Take in the fact that this book has the same amount of hypocrisy and lack of self-respect as Twilight (and then some), but that Twilight has four books (technically), and this book is... single.

If books were people, I'd see why this one was single. Forever alone in a void of nonexistent true friendship and self-respect along with unrealistic emotion. Pretty on the outside, something of a horror on the inside.

I have no idea why anyone thought this was good. The fact that this book managed to reach three stars and is even close to four stars makes me want to shoot my foot.

Now let me elaborate on the thing I liked about this book, and then the long list of what I absolutely hated about it.

What I liked:

1. Anna with Matt.

The romance between Anna and Matt when the guy was alive was actually pretty sweet. (And more realistic than everything else in this book.) But however sweet it was, it really didn't convince me enough. There just wasn't enough backup. Sweetness doesn't make up for the fact that you have to back these things up.

What I hated:

1. Showing, not telling.

I don't see why Ockler had to go on forever writing about how some scene looked like. I mean, I can do that too, but I also know how to balance these things out, and I'm fourteen. Telling, instead of showing, doesn't really make for good writing. It clumps everything up and takes up more time in the book. There was more on how the beach looked like than the development of... well, everything else.

2. You can't tell what kind of book this really is.

On one side, you have two best friends wanting to have a fun summer.

On the other, you have... Well, you have what was supposed to be sadness. The emotions weren't real enough to me. They felt superficial because of how the characters were portrayed as people. (If you could even use the word.) I just really didn't feel anything about it. This book was trying too hard to be two things at once. On one side, you've got the whole "Oh I'm a rebellious slut!" thing going on, and on the other, you have this... tragedy. (And I don't just mean the book itself.) It was all so fake.

I mean, the reality of humans is that, if the situation was presented, most of us would resort to our more barbaric sides. But this book felt like that's exactly what they did (or at least in Frankie's case), and there was nothing about this book that had to resort to such actions (which will be presented in the last point).

3. Character and relationship development.

I didn't feel anything for the characters except for annoyance, at best. Obviously this is a book where the relationships are pretty damn important, but obviously, it fails. Okay, so I could sort of see where Anna and Matt came from, but Anna and Frankie? How they could have ever come to be best friends, I just do not know. The way Frankie treated Anna was horrible. (Again, see the last point.) The relationships, at best, were unrealistic. At worst, they were destructive, emotionally abusive, distrustful, etc. To those of you who have read this book (or maybe not), I might seem like I'm exaggerating, but honestly? I'm not joking when I say Frankie spewed a lot of bullshit.

Anna and Frankie are the main characters, but I see no development. Isn't there supposed to be, with Matt's death and whatnot? Why would there be a book just about how they wallow? I mean, if that was the case, surely it'd be more obvious in the summary? Nada. Anna stayed completely the same. Frankie stayed completely the same. Even at the end, when they had that whole friendship fallout and apparently made up, they were the same. The way they made up was just unbelievable. I've made up with friends quickly, sure, but come on. Maybe it could have been more believable if the characters themselves were.

Sadly, they aren't.

For the record, Sam had potential, but Ockler never did anything about that potential.

4. I'm just so confused.

Ockler felt compelled to describe scenery as opposed to developing her characters, so everything went slow.

Ockler also decided to randomly skip scenes that would give good feedback to the story, which also made everything slow.

End of.

5. The virginity "issue". And Frankie's attitude.

God. I absolutely, positively, 100% hated Frankie.

Okay, I'm a very understanding person. So I get that she was hugely affected by her brother's death. I get that she had to get over it. I get that she had to rebel and all that. But seriously, I can't believe her nerve. Sure, I have a lot of nerve myself, but the difference between Frankie and I is that I have this thing called morals, this other thing called humanity, and this other thing called a brain.


I bet Ockler would have much better luck if she kept Matt alive and just did chick lit. (Because if this is chick lit, it really shouldn't be legal, and for the writing, not the themes.)

But maybe she'd screw that up too. -_____-"
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,313 reviews215 followers
October 4, 2018
Pretty much the most adorable book I've read in October, so far. The month is young though..

Twenty Boy Summer first made me think that someone was going to be a little adventurous in the boy department. Straight up thought she was going to commit and date 20 guys in one summer. 20 guys within a 3 month span.. could probably be doable.. but my eyes were like bugging out of my head. Thankfully, this book was nothing like that.

In this book, you will meet Anna and Frankie. Honestly, Anna was way more likable than the other. Frankie just annoyed me to no end because of all of the unnecessary drama. However, their friendship was cute and shit but I just didn't get behind all of the secrets or lying between these two. I just didn't get why things weren't out in the open or why they hid such small things from some people.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and getting to meet these characters. This is probably because of how realistic this book was in my eyes and it was also something different for YA books. It could just be me thinking that though.

Profile Image for ~Tina~.
1,092 reviews159 followers
December 16, 2010
Some Spoilers

Anna has been in love with her best friend Matt since they were young kids and on her 15th birthday all of her wishes came true. Not sure how Matt's sister and Anna's best friend Frankie, will take the news, the relationship becomes a secret and before they could tell her, fate steps in and takes Matt away in a horrible accident. Leaving the the family devastated but also leaving Anna, alone, with only bitter sweet memories and a promised secret.
A year later the family goes on vacation, the first one since Matt's death and Frankie comes up with a plan to meet as many guys while there. Only Anna guilt mixed with Matt's memory is weighing her down.
How does one move on without erasing the other...?
Dear Matt,
What is the statute of limitations on feelings guilty for cheating on a ghost?

Twenty Boy Summer is so not what I expected. It's the kind of story that hits you hard then slowly grabs your hand and walks you through it.
It's heart breaking and heart warming at the same time.

This was such an amazing book and this is yet another one that I'm kicking myself for not reading sooner ( Alexa, I'm so stalking your shelves for now on babe).
At first I wasn't sure that I could sympathize with Anna's lost since Matt was taken away pretty quick in the book, so I couldn't feel a connection to them right away, but as the story went on, Anna took his memories with her and then all I felt was sad. Sad that that the relationship could have been so great, sad that those memories are filled with such sweetness, sad that it had to be over before it ever really begun. But I didn't really walk away from this book feeling sad, there were still a lot of funny and heart warming moments scattered in this book. It's just a fantastic book about loving someone and moving on. How that no matter what happens you get to keep them in your heart always and that's a beautiful thing.

So, overall, I loved this book. It was Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but most of all it was a honest to good read and a wonderful debut!

Read it! It's good for the heart:)
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
March 6, 2017
I didn't enjoy Twenty Boy Summer like I expected I would. It was just OK for me with not much excitement or emotion.

Profile Image for Jülie ☼♄ .
489 reviews22 followers
March 3, 2016

This is a beautiful story of friendship, that essential ingredient to any meaningful relationship.
Beautifully related by Sarah Ockler, this book has conjured the essence of what it feels like as a teenager to relate to friendships and life experience on a meaningful level.
Her writing takes the reader on an experiential journey of one Summer vacation shared by best friends Frankie and Anna, along with Frankie's parents who are also best friends of Anna's parents.
Each member of this group of four have "extra baggage" so to speak, and it is this holiday together that will prove challenging for each of them on many levels.

I love YA books that transport me back to my youth, especially like this one where lazy summer days at the beach are a feature and young love is all consuming.
Some of the best times of our lives can be recalled from that chapter...though not always rosy, when you really think about it those times can also evoke memories of some of the most painful experiences of your life.
In fact many of them can be traced back to these origins because this is usually your first experience with facing such trials, they are things which mould us and remind us that emotional pain can be crippling, and is relative to the sufferer.

This is a time when you are learning and growing at an alarming rate, experiencing many things for the first time...not always pleasant, often profound, confusing, and memorable. Always edifying.
These life experiences are our early teachers in higher education, and as such they are more often than not, hard task masters.

I believe this quote by Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities is most befitting of that period in our lives....

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)  

*Many thanks to my GR friend Suzanne for recommending this book, so glad to have read it.
Profile Image for Jude.
198 reviews637 followers
June 2, 2011

It shattered my heart to pieces, It gave me the deepest wounds, It made me stronger than ever, And it put me back together. Those are the words I have to say about this book.

At first, when I bought the book, I really didn’t know what I was getting into, I mean, 20 boys? One each day? I thought it would be a simple comedy and a fun read for the summer. How wrong I was.

Twenty Boy Summer follows Anna through her summer, where she grieves the dead of the brother of her best friend and boyfriend Matt, the only problem, no one knew they were together. So Frankie’s family – and Matts- decide to take a trip to California, where they used to go every summer when Matt was alive, and Anna goes with them, carrying her grieve around, for no one but herself to share; She also carries around her journal, where she talks to Matt and pours everything of her. And then there’s Sam, one of the guys they meet during their 20-boy-summer lookout, Handsome, Intelligent, Understanding, and he grows to love Anna, But Anna is so scared to love him back, for the fear of forgetting Matt. I just found it Heartbreaking, and reminded me a lot of Jandy Nelson’s “The Sky Is Everywhere” in many ways.

The only thing I didn’t liked much about the novel was Frankie, her best friend, who acted nothing like. Though its easy to understand, but she still seems to selfish, shallow and ignorant to me. But you do get why she is necessary in the story, aside from the fact that she adds a little spark and humor to it.

Anna was simply a character that leaved a mark on me, and a total opposite to Frankie.

This is Sarah Ockler’s first novel, and reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s novels, which is a great compliment. Twenty Boy Summer is a story in which I loved to live, and leaved a mark in my heart. Gorgeous, beautifully written, and full of Love. I highly recommend it.

Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,955 followers
November 24, 2011
2.5 stars. The beginning and end of the book were great to read and a solid 4 stars. Most of the middle part of the book was 1 star. I'm not sure what else to say. I zipped through the book fairly quickly and liked the idea for the story, but think I wanted more out of the actual vacation and "20 boy challenge" than what was given. There really weren't 20 boys (heck, not even 10!), so the title was extremely misleading.

Mildish spoilers ahead :

What I liked :

Anna and Matt's relationship.

Anna stepping out and finding Sam.

Anna learning to work through her lingering feelings for Matt, and finding a way to get some sort of closure.

What I didn't like :

Frankie. The girl was one-dimensional. When we finally got to see her emotions, I didn't care by that point.

Every single filler scene. There were a lot. I did some skimming.

The loss of virginity felt very anti-climactic (HAH - double meaning).

Sam. He was sweet, attractive, attentive, and uh...detached. This relationship sort of confused me. I get it when someone's extremely into another person. I also get casual relationships and flings. For some reason, I felt like the author was trying to sell us that this relationship was a bit of both, and it felt...odd.
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
848 reviews339 followers
November 4, 2019
3.75 recovering ★★★✬✩
This book is for you if… you want to learn what it can mean to figure out how to reconcile your most important friendship with a promise you gave to your dead lover. Although flawed, this novel still has tiny perfections that make it a lovely book that should be especially promising to younger readers.

20 Boy Summer has been resting on my shelf for the longest time. It was among the first books I put on my to-read-shelf back in 2016 when I opened up this account and I've actually had it at home for like half that time. It took me 3.5 years to finally read it. My tastes have evolved immensely since so I figured this might not be my cup of tea as much as it used to be back then. I turned out to be right.

Altogether, this book is well written, thoughtful and deals with a topic that is widely underrepresented in young adult literature. What does grief mean when the person you're grieving is somebody you've known your entire life as your brother, fell in love with at age 10 and finally kissed for the first time just mere weeks ago? How do you overcome the death of your first love after you've only had a few weeks to experience the joys of a new relationship? Were you even in a relationship per se? What is it exactly, that you lost? And how do you handle the fact you kept your love a secret from your best friend and promised your dead lover not to tell her? How do you support your best friend when she lost her brother?

I don't wish for anybody to be faced with these questions, especially not at such a young age. Growing up is hard as it is. Emotional at times, this story displays great character growth. The emotional development of the main characters is what drives the plot, which I found very refreshing. Twenty Boy Summer still offers humour and silliness, which lightens up the topic a great deal.

I noticed some things that really disagreed with me. They were not reoccurring themes throughout the book and just occurred in one line each. It still thought it important to point them out.

fatphobia. Frankie, one of the main characters used to be shy. The first reason a guy comes up with after hearing this is that she must have been fat. (Thanks a lot, mate.) I honestly don't know where to start with that and I also want to spare myself the emotional drainage that would come with an explanation (which would undoubtedly end in a rant). It wasn't taken up again, the character didn't even receive a scolding within the plot.

acne. 'He's got backne', even said by teenagers, should not be included in the list of reasons to not date someone, not even as a joke. I know for most this is simply how the world of teenagers (or grown-ups) works, but maybe just a few lines on how this is actually a disgusting and traumatizing mindset to the victims (yes, I am speaking from experience), woven into the plot, would have made all the difference. If you can't manage that, then leave out the topic entirely. Do not make fun of people with acne. Do not use a skin condition, or any kind of condition, against people. Just don't.

What’s happening.
‘Anna, when you meet the ocean, you feel it more than you see it. If you’re lucky, that wonderment never fades, and you feel it again every timey ou get back here. You’ll feel it someday.’

Never did Anna think she'd see the ocean for the first time without Matt. But now her first love, the person she could only spend a few weeks with in secret, is dead and she never got to tell her best friend, Matt's sister, that they were in love. She promised him not to. But do you keep a promise made to a dead person? And what are the consequences?
secrets eat you up from the inside
grief makes living guilt-free nearly impossible
best friend wants to cure virginity with 20 boys within 23 days
3 weeks in zansibar at the beach
boys are still cute
collecting glass shards with ocean as background music

Writing quality + easy of reading = 4*

pace = 4*

plot/story in general = 4*

plot development = 3*

characters = 5*

enjoyability = 3*

insightfulness = 3*
Profile Image for Stephanie.
293 reviews
November 9, 2011
34 years ago my brother died in a car accident, I was a little over a year old, he was three. I don't remember much about him, save one strange memory of him standing outside the car entertaining me while my mom pumps and pays for gas. I recall the car, the sun sparkling off of the metal on the window and the smell of the summer day mingling with the smell of the gasoline. And, of course, I have the stories, of how he called me Finnie Shell for Stephanie Michelle, how he would chase me around the house, how he could make me laugh...it hurts that I only have these stories and not their memories.

2 years ago I gave birth to a tiny person, I was a little over 33 years old, she was a surprise. I remember everything about the night I found out I was pregnant, everything about the day the doctor confirmed it, showing us the ultrasound of our little girl already 5 months in the making and every moment anxiously awaiting her arrival. And, of course, I have the stories, of how she calls me Mommy and Mom and sometimes Mommy Stephanie, how she comes to school with me on Saturday Publication work days, how she makes me laugh...it hurts to realize I used to think my life was complete without her.

It's these two people, the brother I never knew and the person I didn't know who could make me, well, a better me, that I think about when I think about Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.

This book has so much in it and it speaks honestly about love, friendship, family and what it means to grieve the loss of a loved one.

I am more than willing to believe that when you are still grieving the loss of someone you truly love that having sex for the first time helps to heal the wound, that blocking it out and drinking and pretending to have sexual exploits makes it a little easier to be alive and that when your child dies a piece of you dies and living doesn't even seem possible. I believe that each of the characters in this book acts how people act when their hearts hurt so much they can't feel it.

I like that the parents and other grown-ups in this book are ancillary to the true narrative. I do not mind that the girls sneak out of the house to hang out with boys, go to a party by lying and making up imaginary girl friends. I believe that grieving parents who are just as lost as their still alive children, in this case the very lost Frankie, don't know how to act or how to feel, I believe they ignore and believe what they want to believe. Here's what I don't like, here's the part that makes me sad and here's the part that I hope makes me a better parent...neither of the girls talk to their parents about how they feel and I believe Anna's parents, would listen and trying to help. While I don't need to know everything that my daughter is doing or will do I hope that she knows that she can always talk to me and she can always share her most personal thoughts with me. I hope that she knows that I love her no matter what.

Everything in this book is real and honest and tender and I wouldn't change a single word of it.

My niece is reading this book right now and I know that I'm going to make sure this book finds its way into the hands of my daughter and then we can have a talk about love and friendship and when it's appropriate to have sex and I hope that while I am not her peer she sees me as someone to go to when she needs to do so.

While I write this my daughter is singing "Happy Birthday to Mommy", it isn't my birthday until next May, but it sure feels like a celebration.

Profile Image for Inge.
347 reviews884 followers
June 17, 2016
“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.”

When Matt dies, Anna has no idea what to do with herself. Not only has she lost her best-friend-that’s-a-guy, but also the guy that was other. After a month of sneaky meetings (to spare Frankie’s – Matt’s sister – feelings), Anna has no idea what exactly they are. Matt plans to tell Frankie everything on their holiday to California. But they never go. Because Matt dies in a car accident. Exactly one year later, Anna joins Frankie and her parents on a holiday to California. Anna and Frankie vow to meet twenty boys in three weeks, hopefully so that Anna can lose her virginity. It’s a holiday that will change the girls separately and their friendship forever.

When I bought Twenty Boy Summer, I was expecting a light, fluffy, chicklit-y read about two girls going on a holiday and the awkward horrors of dating. After quickly scanning a couple reviews, I quickly realised that this was not going to be the case. I’m glad I knew that beforehand, otherwise I might’ve been disappointed. Now I knew what I was getting into. I, however, did not expect it to be as enticing. As it happened, I read this book in one sitting, only to be interrupted by dinner and an episode of That ‘70s Show. It gripped me from page 1 and still hasn’t let me go, even after the final page.

“I just swallow hard.
Nod and smile.
One foot in front of the other.
I'm fine, thanks for not asking.”

Because the romance between Anna and Matt isn’t built up but immediately begins with their first kiss, I found it hard to really understand the depth of their relationship and, eventually, Anna’s loss. It is easy to understand Frankie’s grief as a sister and Anna’s grief as a best friend, but not really as a girlfriend-or-not-what-was-she-exactly. Nevertheless, as the book progresses, it’s clearly that even after a year, Anna still hasn’t forgotten Matt in the slightest. Turns out, a holiday in Zanzibar Bay, and particularly a boy named Sam, are exactly what she needed to accept the past and move on.

While some parts (mostly Frankie’s parts) are slightly annoying, the story is still a touching and heartfelt one. A story about what it means to love, to be a friend, to be a part of a (broken) family, to grieve. It got to me. It’s as deep as a teenage novel will go. I would definitely recommend this unexpected little gem. I feel richer now.
Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews527 followers
October 8, 2010
I have been waiting to read this book for ages, and although it wasn't quite as fantastic as I had counted on (maybe my high expectations are to blame?), it was definitely a good read.

I think this book is one of the books that has made me cry the most while reading it.
Having read the plot summary, this was to be expected.
Anna, Frankie and Matt have been neighbours and close friends since childhood. Anna has had a crush on Matt for almost as long as that. On her 15th birthday, all her wishes finally come true. They kiss. Most YA novels would probably end here: The heroine gets her dream boy and they live happily ever after … but not in this case. Shortly after their first kiss, Matt dies unexpectedly and leaves Anna alone with their secret and a grief that she can't really express, especially not around his sister and her best friend, Frankie.
Twenty Boy Summer takes place one year after the tragic incident. Anna spends her summer with Frankie and her family at their beach house in California. The emotions surrounding Matt's death are still raw, and with memories of earlier, happier summers resurfacing, it is hard to find closure.

This situation is the starting point for a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, emotionally intense and beautifully crafted story about love and loss, friendship and family, but first and foremost about moving on and and letting go.

While both Anna and Frankie are relatable, realistic and fully fleshed out, I wish I could say the same about the secondary characters. Especially Anna's love interest remains pale concerning the important role he plays and their relationship didn't feel that special to me. Also, while the issues revolving around Frankie's parents are picked up in the beginning, they are never fully explored. I certainly agree that a book doesn't have to bring closure in every possible sense, but this situation seemed fairly important to me. Often times, the scenes when Anna and Frankie are out together with them are partially glossed over and almost always labeled boring. They are something to get over with, where you pretend to have fun, and then run out to meet the boys as soon as possible. I really wished the book would have shown more growth in this relationship.
Additionally, the girls' frequent sneaking out and never getting caught began to grind on my nerves towards the end. I have a hard time imagining that parents really are that clueless and uninterested in their daughter’s whereabouts.

Nevertheless, Twenty Boy Summer is a book that will stay on my mind not only for the emotional ride it took me on, but also because it clearly is more than the cute and light beach read its cover suggests.

Profile Image for Emily.
187 reviews302 followers
August 3, 2014
Sometimes when I'm with him, something will remind me of Matt. A shooting star, the smell of someone's shampoo, a long laugh, a turn of phrase from someone passing by along the shore. When it happens, I close my eyes, count to ten, and will him to go away. To give me back my memories so that something as simple as a song floating out from behind a bonfire doesn't bring me all the way back to him every time.

It was hard to choose just one quote to start my (gushing) review of Twenty Boy Summer. There were so many - my copy is covered in sticky notes, favourite passages that I wish I had written myself. Seriously, this book is full of beauty, it was so hard not to put a sticky note on every single page.

On the cover of my copy, Jo Knowles describes Twenty Boy Summer: "Breaks your heart and puts it back together again." That's exactly how I felt. I admit that in the beginning I didn't feel sympathy for many of the characters but by a quarter of the way through I realised I had fallen in love with them all. Absolutely all of them. Red, Jayne, Frankie, Anna, Sam... Matt. Especially Matt.

It's just that kind of book. It sneaks up on you, quietly crawls under your skin, into your heart.

There's so much more I could say but I won't - it's better if you go read it and discover how beautiful it is for yourself.

Thanks to Nomes for sending one of her copies my way :)
Profile Image for Aisyah ♡.
224 reviews50 followers
January 3, 2016
This book tells the story of two best friends, Frankie and Anna dealing with the loss of a brother and a lover respectively. They traveled across the country from New York to California for summer vacation a year after his death. In a way, this trip was supposed to be a mark of how 'normal' things are even as Frankie's family struggled to continue life without Matt.

“But when he died, I saw -nothing. There was nothing left to see. It happened and it was impossible and beautiful and then it ended before it even really began, leaving nothing behind but secrets and broken hearts.”

However, Anna is overwhelmed by the guilt from not telling Frankie that she was in love and had a relationship with Matt, who made her promise to keep it a secret. Anna & Matt planned to tell Frankie after months of sneaking around, unfortunately the secret died with him and Anna was forced to suppress her true feelings from other people. To everyone, she's just his friend, nothing more nothing less.

This novel is beautifully written. For a beach lover like me, the author's way of writing about the sea, the sand, the atmosphere of being so near to the ocean just struck a chord with me. Plus, the book takes place mainly at Zanzibar Bay, California where Frankie and Anna spend a lot of time swimming, surfing, sunbathing and of course, meeting boys.

This book was an easy read and it has quite a few light-hearted moments, however it still brings out serious questions like coping with loss of beloved ones, and keeping secrets that could jeopardize your relationship between a person who trusts you. The author also brings forth topics regarding teenage sexuality and what does it mean letting go of someone you deeply loved in order to move on.

Profile Image for Julie Kagawa.
Author 113 books24.7k followers
May 29, 2009
20 BOY SUMMER surprised me. I thought this would be a light read, with lots of boy chasing and gossip and giggling over clothes and makeup and teenage girl things. And while there are certainly elements of that, dig a bit deeper and there is this raw, aching grief festering just below the surface, as everyone Matt loved tries their best to carry on in their own way. I was tempted to roll my eyes at some of the conversations between Anna and Frankie, especially the nonchalant way they were discussing Anna's virginity, and how this was the perfect time for her to lose it. It was tempting to dislike Frankie, with her shallow, prima donna attitude and her unwillingness to discuss anything but boys, makeup, and sex. But I couldn't, because I knew it was just a fragile cover to deal with the pain of losing Matt.

And that's what Sarah Ockler does so well. Matt's ghost hangs over everything, even when he's not being discussed. This isn't a story about boys and summer love and fun on the beach. Its a story about grief, loss, healing, and moving on. I haven't enjoyed a book like this so much in awhile, and I highly recommend it to anyone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kami Garcia.
Author 114 books16.6k followers
January 11, 2016
This is a beautifully written novel about love, friendship, and the things we carry with us long after the moments in which we experience them end. 20 Boy Summer is more than just your average YA romance. It balances an original teenage voice with prose and metaphor that will haunt you long after you put it down. And as a writer, it made me want to re-read every line I've written in the past six months, in an attempt to strive for that sort of perfection.

I fell in love with all the main characters, and had trouble deciding who I loved the most because each of them was so heartbreaking and real. This book will change the way you think about your past, the present, and the places you hold your memories.
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews120 followers
October 26, 2011
Rating: 3.5

“Don't move, Anna Reiley. Right now, everything is perfect.”

When the boy you love is the brother of your best friend, things tend to get a tad complicated. In Anna's case, the moment Matt kisses her, she knows without a doubt that he's "the one". Anna is overjoyed but Matt wants to wait before he tells his sister, Frankie. The three have always been a trio of sorts, and he fears revealing their relationship too soon could be too much for her.

Give me a break.

I found it really dodgey how he kept putting it off. It made me question what his intentions were. However, there's no time to contemplate.

Matt is dead, and leaves behind a distraught family and a grieving girlfriend. Whilst her best friend and his sister Frankie has lost herself in partying, Anna spends her days keeping to herself. But it's when the prospect of a holiday arrives that thing really take a turn.

Frankie isn't an easy person to like, so I wondered many times why Anna stuck with her. I wouldn't have. Maybe it's the fact that she's a link to Matt, or part of a past she misses that makes her cling on, but even now - I'm conflicted on her. On this holiday, the two sneak out, go boy hunting, and take on anything else rebellious that comes to mind. Whilst originally sworn of boys, Anna soon finds herself caught up with a boy called Sam. He's lovely, of course - if not a little too lovely - bordering on bland.

Here is where I started questioning Anna. "What ifs" can eat a person up inside - I get that. What if he had lived, would they have lasted? Did he love her? Was he going to tell Frankie? Soon enough though, personally, I started to feel like she was in love with the idea of being in love with Matt. I think that she spent so long pining over him that she just convinced herself that no matter what, they were going to be together forever. The naive, high school girl mentality. Of course, real life is never that simple. But even after his death, she seems to cling on to this fantasy. But here's the deal. She spends so much of the novel telling us of the sweet moments they shared, of her love for him, only to fall for Sam and realise that what she felt for Matt was nothing compared to how she felt for Sam. *sighs*. Talk about fickle. Don't spend the whole book moaning about how much you love this particular guy, soften me up to the idea and then meet this random guy for a few days, declare yourself in love with him, and then tell me Matt never compared to him. WTF is that? What does that tell me about you?

I think her dismissing Matt in that way, *even if it was intentional* bothered me becuse I liked what her and Matt had - no matter how breif. There were some very sweet moments between the two. Their first kiss being a favourite of mine :)

“Anna," he said, dragging his frosted fingers through my hair."Don't you know what it means when a boy pulls your hair at your birthday party?" "No." Just, then, I didn't know what anything meant.”

I didn't like Frankie, but there were real moments that made me contemplate otherwise at times. I felt there was more depth to her than our protagonist. Sure Anna is hurting, but when I think of the above points regarding Sam, I don't feel so sorry for her anymore. However Frankie has other issues. If you look behind her bitchy attitude, underneath lies a girl who wants to be noticed by her parents. Who wants her parents to catch her sneaking out and tell her she's grounded. She feels lonely and unloved. Sometimes we forget that she's Matt's sister. That maybe this out-of-control Frankie is a mere shell to hide just how much she is falling apart. She was basically betrayed by the two people she loved most. Anna being the protagonist, can tend to make us forget that at times.

I liked the book, a lot. It was a fast read, filled with memorable lovely quotes. I just expected to love it.
Profile Image for Laura.
3,713 reviews95 followers
January 3, 2015
I wanted so much to like this book and instead was vaguely disappointed by the lack of depth and inner dialogue at several critical points.

This is the story of three friends, Anna, Frankie and Matt (Frankie and Matt are siblings, Anna is the girl-next-door), and how Matt's death changes things. Just before he died, Anna and Matt had started a clandestine relationship while Matt waited for the right moment to tell Frankie. After his death, Anna keeps it all to her self, writing letters/journal entries and "talking" to him, while outwardly portraying her grief as that of best-friend-to-sister-of-Matt.

Matt's death wasn't due to carelessness, drunk driving, or anything "teachable": he had a heart defect and was unlucky enough to be driving (with Anna and Frankie) at the time. This was one of those could have happened anywhere/any time events, and so is glossed over. The majority of the book takes place a year later, as his family heads to California for their annual vacation and Anna comes along to help Frankie get over her grief.

You see glimpses of what Frankie's going through (dressing more provocatively, smoking, grades going down, acting out) but you never really get a sense of what Anna thinks about this or what she has tried to do other than be there for Frankie. She even goes along with the "20 boy summer" idea without a lot of internal process.

Most disturbing was the almost blase way in which Anna's losing her virginity was handled. Dubbed "Anna's Albatross" (and the reason for the 20 boy idea - surely one of them will Do the Deed) by Frankie, you never get how Anna feels about it. When she finally does have sex, any thoughts or emotions are swept away by the drama of Frankie finding out about Matt/Anna.

Given that there was a lot of Anna "hearing" Matt's voice, talking to him, thinking about him, I expected something more in the way of self-reflection and internal conflict at times. Anna seemed too passive in places, which didn't ring true. Perhaps as an adult I expected more, and younger (eg, teen) readers will not.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
62 reviews3 followers
August 15, 2011
Ugh. I did not care for this book. I pulled it off the return cart (it certainly circulates often!) and thought it looked like a fun beach read. Ummm, not so much. Right off the bat, in the first chapter, we learn that there is a tragic accident where someone very close to the narrator dies. (I promise, this is not a spoiler - it's on the back cover!)
I was pretty sure at this moment that my hopes of reading a light-hearted beach read were quickly disappearing. What I was left with instead, was a 16 year-olds quest to lose her virginity.
Things that continued to irritate me throughout the book was the author's constant need to point out Frankie's lack of vocabulary. Is this character really that stupid where she mis-pronounces every word?? And if she's that dumb, do we need to keep seeing Anna correct her? The constant corrections were as irritating as the grammatical mistakes.
The other thing that bothered me was the excruciating over-detailing of the story. Ockler felt the need to throw in so many unnecessary details about everything. This, unfortunately, made an un-interesting plot move even slower. However, after spending tens of pages on describing one afternoon at a time, suddenly there was a paragraph that started along the lines of "the next week passed by ..." or whatever and I suddenly felt cheated on the development of the story.
So, I guess that this was a story about death and dealing, bratty best friends and the quest to have sex with a random stranger while on vacation. I don't think that this is one that I will want to recommend to the teens which makes me feel as if I've wasted my evening with reading this book.

Profile Image for Beth .
290 reviews215 followers
July 11, 2015
This book would be SO much better if it had been through the eyes of the MC's best friend, Frankie. I loved Frankie. She was honest and real and surviving the only way she knew how after her brother's death.

The way that our MC, Anna, described her just pissed me off. Every two pages we were reminded that Anna is smarter, that she just doesn't care about her appearance as much, and that she was a Virgin and her friend Was Not. The way that she treated her friend, not outwardly but inwardly, just made me mad.

I understand that you looooved Matt but your best friend lost her brother. He died. She lost her brother. Brother > bestfriend/crush anyday. She acted like her hurt was equal to Matt's and Frankie's hurt and it just seemed to rude.

I just didn't like a lot about this book and three stars is generous. just because I liked the ending.

I expected romance and yeah I got a cute little summer fling but it didn't blow me away. It didn't make me giddy. It didn't make me feel like I was in the book. Frankly, I just didn't feel.

I didn't cry when Matt died. I didn't cry when the characters cried. I didn't feel sad when they felt sad. I just didn't feel anything. I'm disappointed with this book.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,001 reviews368 followers
March 20, 2018
I really love this author's work and even though I didn't love all of this, the emotional connection of feeling something for these characters that are all struggling so much with their grief, was definitely there.

Not my favorite Ockler book but a good one that brought out the feels.
Profile Image for ily .
455 reviews629 followers
August 6, 2015
Si alguna vez me ven leyendo otro libro con un corazón en la portada, no duden en dispararme. Me estarían haciendo un favor.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,172 reviews1,305 followers
July 6, 2020
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is a summer read that is able to balance fluff with heavy topics. I enjoyed the leisure atmosphere of the vacation as well as the main character’s dynamic characterization. I also appreciated the nuance with which the author writes about grief. This is an enticing read that is realistic and easy to connect with.

This book follows two best friends on vacation who plan to each have a summer fling by meeting twenty different boys during their trip. Anna goes along with it, but she has a secret: she was dating her best friend’s brother, but he passed away just before they could share the news with Frankie. This tension was interesting to read about, and the way memories of Matt were included add a lot to the story. I wasn’t convinced I would be able to sympathize with this because his death happens so early in the story that he isn’t fully characterized, but the author does a great job showing the effects of his death on Anna and allowing the reader to fully understand the weight of what could have been.


I enjoyed Anna’s character. She is genuinely caring and loyal to her friends. Anna is always there for Frankie even though she isn’t okay herself, and I really sympathized with her because of this reluctance to ask for help. She is so strong, but she doesn’t need to be that strong all the time. Ultimately, I liked Anna’s voice, and I thought she was a dynamic character.


One of my favourite parts about this book is the way it is written and the way the author handles grief. The book has its tragic moments, and I liked how the sadness the main character feels is not discounted. Anna still misses Matt, but she is also able to find happiness in her life with another boy while acknowledging the pain she feels. There was a good level of nuance to this book, and this is part of what makes it so realistic.


Twenty Boy Summer is a contemporary that is both cute and emotional. I enjoyed the suspense of waiting for Frankie to learn the truth, and the main character is complex. I also found the way the author addresses the more serious topics of the book to be well done. I would recommend this to those looking for a more serious summer read that still has moments of fun.
Profile Image for Sam.
172 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2018
The book was decent, and that's all. It didn't make me laugh, or cry, but it wasn't bad.
Anna goes on a trip with her best friend Frankie to Zanzibar, California. They create their own challenge, Twenty Boy Summer. In which they try to meet twenty boys before the end of the vacation. But Anna doesn't want to meet boys. She still isn't over the death of her first boyfriend, only a little over a year ago. But no one knows that she and Matt dated. And she can't tell anyone one because she made a promise. And Matt is Frankie's brother.
Anna is a blase character. Even though Matt died, and she is grieving. I felt like she didn't have a lot of structure. I wanted to like Frankie, but she made it hard with all her trashy friend moves. Frankie's parents were horrible. Their son died, but they still have a daughter, and they should get a clue.
Sam was a weak love interest. It was almost aggravating how understanding he was. He never got mad at Anna. And he didn't really have a reason to, but he was all most too perfect.
It was an easy read, but I did put off really reading it for awhile, before I hunkered down and read the whole thing.
When Frankie found out about Matt and Anna's relationship, and had her whole episode. I wanted to fight. I mean come on girl, he was your brother, but you weren't the only person who lost him.

3/5 stars, utterly average.
Profile Image for Farren.
667 reviews66 followers
July 21, 2018
3.5 stars

It took me a few chapters to get used to Sarah's writing, but I loved it by the end of the book. I wasn't sure it was the book for me, especially because I found Frankie to be so unlikable, but it gets better as you read on. I have never lost anyone I was close to, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I think I'd still recommend this book to someone who has. It shows how grief can change people in completely different ways and how/when/if it's okay to move on.
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