Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bloggers Speak Out Banned Book Week Review of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Sunday, September 26, 2010
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 her 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 that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago. (Publisher’s Summary fro Powell’s Book)

After the recent article by Dr Scroggins, about banning books he deems "soft porn," "filthy," and "glorifying drunken teen parties and sex," I decided it was time to read one of the book Scroggins singled out: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and judge for myself why he found this book so filthy.  What I found was a sensitive and realistic handling of loss and grief, friendship, first love,  and a strong message about living life to its fullest.

One of the first things that struck me about Ockler’s debut novel was her prose. The descriptions are vividly painted with details and original language. The beach setting came alive for me as if, like Anna, I too was experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells, of Zanzibar Bay, California for the first time ...

Jammed with tourists, hot dogs, and neon bathing suits, the pier is an assault on every one of the senses ⎯ possibly the sixth as well.

It isn’t the town itself, but the people. Us. Summer seems to arrive with us, as though the entire place has been asleep since last September, awakening only as taxis and rental cars line up to deposit us along he beach ⎯ families with toddlers, college kids on break, retirees seeking to warm themselves under the California sun, and our own motley crew. Together we break upon the pier like a tidal wave as she rubs her winter-sleepy eyes, stretching, and turns on the coffee for us.

Ockler also has a keen ear for teen dialogue, which quickly brought Anna and Frankie alive. The writing allowed me to become part of the friendship they shared all their lives, and feel the varying shades of sadness and grief that for the past year, since Matt's death, has made their teenage existence even more difficult than most. Ockler’s writing is emotionally true and Anna’s narration was perfection. Ockler also portrays Frankie’s parents with compassion and authenticity as they deal with the loss of a child.

Anyone who has actually read Twenty Boy Summer couldn’t help but find a beautifully written character driven story that deals with the tragic loss of a beloved son, brother, and boyfriend. Yes, it deals with teen sexuality, but this is not the real focus of the message I believe Ockler was writing about. Yes, there is one teen party with drinking (not "parties" as Scroggins wrongly stated as fact), but again it is one event that moves the plot forward to the book's climax and the turning point for Anna and Frankie, whose growth had been weighted down by their grief.  Taken out of context, I can see how someone like Dr Scroggins might construe the premise to be about two girls having a wild vacation, but this is far from reality. Twenty Boy Summer is not a light-hearted read about the sexually explicit escapades of two teenage girls that Scroggins's leads his readers to believe. It is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, dealing with the reality of living in the aftermath of loss, and finding a way to deal and move forward.

Favorite quote:

Nothing ever really goes away --- it just changes into something else. Something beautiful.

If you have not read Twenty Boy Summer then I highly recommend that you do.

I truly hope that the good people of the Republic School District in Springfield, Missouri rise up against individuals like Scroggins, who want to dictate what is appropriate reading material or even curriculum for other people's children. Dr. Scroggins has made his choice as a parent to home school his kids, as such he can ensure his children read what he deems appropriate, but he should not be allowed to choose what books or curriculum are appropriate for every other child in the Republic's school district or any where else.

Don't forget to enter my Blogger's Speak Out Giveaway one winner will  choose from Scroggins's  "filthy" three, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut, or Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.


thebookfairyhaven said...

What an absolutely lovely review Jan! I haven't gotten around to reading this yet, but after reading Scroggins' article, it makes me want to read this book more than ever. Also, I love that you include some of the quotes in the book because I can tell from the writing, that I'm going to love this book!

Mad Scientist said...

I really Really REALLY loved 20 Boy Summer. It was a book that made me happy, sad, cry, and love all within the cover. Great book!

Hello, I'm new to the blog-o-sphere. I'm wiggling my way around. :)

Love Love LOVE your header. It is so Steampunk!

I'm a new follower.

Mad Scientist

Melissa said...

Brilliant review, Jan! I just read this book a little bit ago, and I thought it had a very powerful message. Though I'm a devout Orthodox Catholic, I think this book is a poignant and meaningful read for all teens :)

anjohnston said...

I'm so glad to read you liked this novel. I've yet to hear anyone mention in their review how good the dialog is so I'm interested to take a look and I'm also glad to read you address the issues about this novel that one person *there are many other words I'd prefer to use* seems to think are so prominent in a novel they'd obviously never read/ Thanks for the review!

Nomes said...

i loved this book too. you're right, the prose s just beautiful and the story is truly heartfelt.

great review - really well put.

i cant wait to read her next book Fixing Delilah :)

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I love your review and your comments on Scroggins's input. Some people are absolute nitpickers and won't see the wider picture. But from my experience, banned books are almost always good books, which makes me wonder.

I have this book on my wishlist and it's so great to read such a wonderful, insightful review about it. Thanks for sharing!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Read it and loved it. Wonderful review.

Trillian said...

I'm just about to start Twenty Boy Summer as one of my books for banned books weeks. Thanks for sharing a great review

Jessica Lawlor said...

Excellent review! I can't wait to read this one!

Lily Child said...

Fantastic review! I am reading this one right now, and so far am really enjoying it! :)

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