YA Bloggers Debut Book Battle 2010
For sixteen-year-olds Anna Reiley and Frankie Perino, their twenty day-long, minimally supervised California vacation will be the 'Absolute Best Summer Ever' and according to Frankie, if they meet one boy every day, there's a pretty good chance that Anna will get her first real boyfriend. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie - she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago. Written in lyrical, accessible prose, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it truly means to grieve, and perhaps most importantly, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.
Written in first person narrative from Anna's view point. Anna is a kind hearted girl, the type of friend everyone wishes they had. She falls in love with her best friends brother, Matt, the three of them have been friends all of their lives, neighbours and practically inseparable. On her birthday all her dreams come true when Matt kisses her. They meet in secret afraid of Frankie's reaction to the development of their relationship. Before they are able to tell Frankie, Matt tragically dies from an undetected heart defect, Anna is left to hold the pieces together and unable to tell Frankie that she was in love with her brother.
The story unfolds directly into the action with some points of reminiscing by Anna to give the background details to the plot. In some respects Anna seems far more mature than her age would give her credit for. Anna takes on the role of holding people together has to hide the depth of her own loss. The emotions within the narrative were poignant and tangible. However, I did find myself comparing the story to The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson which also deals with loss, grief and first love. The main difference between the two books was the way in which people grieve was depicted. A good point to compare and contrast.
The one thing I can honestly say I preferred in The Sky is Everywhere is how the issue of losing your virginity was dealt with, with emotion and the whole ideal of making it special. While in Twenty Boy Summer it is treated as an affliction to be cast off as soon as possible. As a mother of 3 girls this idea did frighten me, I know the time will come in the future but as a parent you want your children to take these things seriously and be emotionally as well as physically ready. I did sympathise with Anna as in her mind Matt was the one and that was taken away from her, anyone else would always be second best. The whole idea that she was afraid to move on as if it would be an act of betrayal to Matt was touching. The story was an emotional journey of self-discovery for Anna.
The thing I liked most about Twenty Boy Summer was the way in which each persons grief was depicted. For Frankie she acts out, pretends to be a completely different person to the one she was when her brother was alive. She doesn't take anyone else's feelings into consideration and that annoyed me at times. For Matt & Frankie's parents, they shut themselves off completely, not talking about Matt or even allowing anyone into his room. They are so wrapped up in their own grief that they hand responsibility of Frankie over to Anna, who is obviously far too young to be put in that position. While Anna is hiding the depth of her emotions.
The descriptions and imagery are fantastically sensory, you really feel as if you are on the beach with the waves lapping and the sand between your toes. The beach has always been one of my favourite places and never fails to make me feel at peace. So this aspect of the narrative really brought it to life for me.
All aspects of the plot tie together beautifully in the end, offering a bitter-sweet resolution. A great book giving a different view of grief and loss. You may need tissues for this one as-well.