Hi! Welcome to our shiny, new blog: Rather Be Reading. We’re so excited to be coming to you live after a month of preparation, and a few months of brainstorming!
Before we get into our individual book reviews, we wanted to launch with our first BOOK REPORT, a feature that will be recurring every month. Basically we read the same book, chat about it and post it here. Because we are sort of experimenting with this format and double-reviewing a book, this is subject to change. But for today, with minor spoilers, we discuss:
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Release Date: June 1, 2009
Target Audience: YA
Format: Library book for Magan; Estelle owns a hard copy.
How Estelle found out about it: Found it by chance on the YA table at Barnes & Noble.
How Magan found out about it: Browsing for more books by Sarah Ockler; I’d already read Fixing Delilah and wanted more!
Summary: Anna has been best friends with siblings Frankie and Matt forever. She’s also been in love with Matt for as long as she can remember. On her fifteenth birthday, it seems like her dreams are coming true — Matt kisses her and she discovers he likes her too. Before they can tell Frankie about their “whatever-it-is”, Matt dies in a car accident. A year later, Frankie and her family, along with Anna, are still reeling from this loss and Anna still hasn’t divulged her secret to Frankie. On a trip to California, Frankie decides the two girls will meet 20 guys and that Anna should lose her virginity. But Anna still cannot forget Matt…
Magan: Let’s go! I’m just opening my notes. My first thoughts were that Anna was so hung up on Matt that it made me really connect with him. I liked his character and I really felt sad that he died, leaving no chance for there to be a future between the two of them.
Estelle: Me too. It was sort of like an ache that didn’t leave me throughout the whole book.
Estelle: I was really upset we didn’t get to see more of their stolen moments, but happy when they were sort of woven throughout the book. It also really brought me back to my first relationship, too.
Magan: Yes! Stolen moments – when she wrote her first letter to Matt, I had tears streaming down my face… and when she met other boys, I felt so disappointed. I think I compared all of them to Matt and never really connected with Sam as much.
Estelle: With Sam, I liked him immediately but still felt sad that she would never get to talk to or spend more time with Matt again. I felt proud of her for taking the plunge with a new guy and not buying into Frankie’s mission too much.
Magan: Yeah, and repeatedly throughout my notes, I kept writing “Just tell Frankie! Just tell her about Matt!” I wanted Frankie to understand why she wasn’t jumping into all those relationships.
Estelle: Frankie wouldn’t have wanted to understand anyway. The family dynamic post-death was very terrifying to me. Anna was totally the anchor for everyone.
Magan: Oh, yeah. My heart felt so heavy for Anna. The way she kept saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.” That was hard. She was so not fine.
Estelle: I agree. I think Anna’s character was so well-developed and even though she was the most rational, the way she dealt with death was avoidance and sort of burying it.
Magan: …but at the same time, she wasn’t really moving forward. Granted, I didn’t want her to have moved on beyond Matt, but I felt like she was stuck.
Estelle: She was. I think about her age though. She was young when that happened. Maybe an older person would have moved on more swiftly; her head would have been in a different place. Like if she was distracted by college or something.
Magan: I think that’s why Frankie’’s challenge bothered me the most. They were so young, Frankie was dealing with something tragic irrationally, and all she cared about was Anna losing her virginity. It made me hate Frankie’s character. I knew I was supposed to laugh at all of the words she mixed up, but I really, really disliked her character.
Estelle: I thought Frankie had a learning disability. Honestly. The effects of a traumatic event occurring in her life. I didn’t get it really. I thought we were going to find out just how messed up she was especially because they kept pointing out how she was failing all the school stuff. But it ended up being nothing.
Magan: Right, but in actuality she just LIED about everything.
Estelle: Maybe it would have worked better if we got another moment between Anna and Frankie before the accident. We only got Anna and Matt.
Magan: I agree. I wish we had seen more of Anna and Frankie pre-accident. We didn’t really see as much of how Frankie had changed. We were told, but I didn’t feel it was convincing. I just thought Frankie was an airhead.
Estelle: She wasn’t a character I was that invested in. I was just waiting for her to quit playing her game.
Magan: Not at all. In fact, Anna and Matt were the only two I cared about.
Estelle: I wondered when the breaking point was going to be.
Magan: Me too.
Estelle: You know what bugged me?
Estelle: They never went full circle with the mom/aunt conversation [As in Frankie & Matt’s mom].
Estelle: I was hoping Anna would have a chance to talk to Jayne again or even resolve it later, but nothing comes out of it. It just sort of hangs there.
Magan: I typed at the end of my notes that I wished they’d talked again. I wrote, “Part of me feels like she needs motherly love and for someone to tell about she and Matt’s relationship.” Anna told Sam, but like that conversation would have really went down like that. I don’t think so. Anna: “Oh, hey Sam. I’m dealing with some really heavy stuff. I lied about Frankie not having a sibling. She had a brother. I kind of dated him and then he died, but Frankie just found out. And she’s mad at me now.” Sam: “Oh, that sucks. Must have been hard. Who cares that you lied? Let me comfort you.” Yeah right!
Estelle: He [Sam] really didn’t bother me.
Magan: No, but I didn’t care about him at all. I didn’t like him. I didn’t see the appeal. I wanted to. I wanted Anna to meet the best boy and for me to love him. But, I didn’t.
Estelle: She couldn’t meet the best boy though. She was leaving.
Magan: Yeah, the best boy died.
Estelle: Ha! You can’t make it seem like she would never meet another boy again.
Magan: Oh, I know. And I know that I would’ve been ticked if there had been a perfectly happy ending with butterflies and rainbows and promises to stay together. So during the huge climax where Frankie finally finds out – who were you rooting for – Anna or Frankie?
Estelle: Umm, definitely Anna.
Magan: Yeah, me too. I wanted to punch Frankie so hard.
Estelle: The journal thing was heartbreaking. I would have gone nuts.
Magan: Oh gosh. I would have, too. I would have tried to save that thing. I probably would have pushed Frankie in the ocean. I just couldn’t help but dislike Frankie even more after that. All I could think about was how bratty and immature she was.
Estelle: They were just a bunch of extremes of how they dealt with Matt’s death, I guess. I think Anna was a loyal friend even if she couldn’t tell Frankie about Matt. She stuck with her even if she was a totally different person.
Magan: I loved that. I have a really hard time with change, so I hope that I could respond in the same way if something in my life happened like this. With a huge life altering change – to be so loyal.
Estelle: Especially when that person you are loyal to is 1) acting like a nut 2) was the sibling of the dead boy you loved. Tough stuff.
Magan: Yeah. I kind of wish that the whole journal thing hadn’t been dealt with the way it had. I wish maybe Anna had given Frankie the diary to say, “This is what I’ve been going through. This is what happened and I want you to know.” Especially since Frankie was being so selfish. Maybe Anna had been able to draw some attention to her pain for once.
Estelle: I think they needed a drama. What else would have been the climax?
Magan: Frankie would have still blown up, but maybe the diary wouldn’t have been tossed into the abyss of the ocean. Ha!
Estelle: I still think they needed something big like maybe the parent’s found out they had been sneaking out and there’s a big shakeup.
Magan: Oh, yeah. I didn’t like that they got away with that stuff.
Estelle: They may not have gotten away with it. I still feel like my mom [sorry Mom!] knew all the times i snuck out even if i thought I was being crafty. So it’s Sarah [Oakler]’s debut novel, would you consider reading more of her writing?
Magan: Hmm. I think I would. I do hope that more of the characters would be fully developed in her future novels. I loved Anna so much and just wanted that from all the characters. What about you?
Estelle: I think I definitely would. Her style… with the italics … and the shifts in time totally reminds me of something I would like to write or have experimented with in the past.
Magan: *laughs* Yeah, good call. Any final thoughts on the book? What would you rate this one? I’d say it’s a 3 for me. I’m glad I read it, but I won’t re-read it.
Estelle: I would probably say 3 also. I think it would be a book I would take with me on vacation and read again. It felt like a Baby-Sitter’s Club book to me sometimes too, specifically any time the gang traveled to Sea City. Either way, I’m a sucker for a beach/summer vacation setting.
Magan: I am, too. I guess I’d just pick something a little less heavy for a beach read.
Estelle: I still thought it was light even if it was heavy, if that makes sense.
Magan: *laughs* Yes, it does.
Estelle: I liked all the associations with the sea glass too. I liked that she got to hear a final moment about Matt from Frankie and get the necklace.
Magan: Ah. That was a nice wrap-up. Have you read Moonglass by Jessi Kirby?
Estelle: No! I’m looking it up now!
Magan: You should read Moonglass if you liked this book. A beach setting. A cute love story. A bit of family drama. Oh, and sea glass references.
Estelle: Perfect! Added to the list!
Thank you all for joining in on our first
BOOK REPORT chat. We hope you’ll think about adding Twenty Boy Summer to your must-read list!