Last summer I was engrossed in dystopian and vampiric novels, this year everything I read is dealing with love, death and the beach.  Not that I am complaining – there is nothing better than sitting on the beach or by the pool with a “suck you in from the first page” romance and a cool drink by your side. I am about to recommend a book – read Sarah Ockler’s debut novel “Twenty Boy Summer” if you haven’t already,   Its about love and friendship and dealing with grief and it is so well written. So many times throughout this book I grew teary eyed as if it was me not the character riding an emotional rollercoaster.  I remember my first boyfriend, the kisses that made heart race faster, and all the incredible conversations and other little moments. First love can be intense, passionate and inspire a great deal of bad poetry.  But what happens when your relationship with this love ends much too quickly for reasons beyond your control such as death?

 For years Frankie, Anna and her brother Matt have been palling around.  For years, Anna has been secretly in love with Matt and hoping desperately that one day he would feel the same about her.  Every year on her birthday she had the same wish that Matt would finally kiss her. The stars were aligned in Anna’s favor on her fifteenth birthday because that is exactly what Matt did.  It wasn’t easy keeping their growing feelings from Frankie but they decided to wait for the right time to tell her.  Only before the secret can be revealed, Matt dies tragically. Its seems that their love began with a smile, grew with a kiss, and ended with a teardrop.

Despite tragedy life goes on.  It hasn’t been easy for anyone. Words cannot express the grief one feels when one loses love. Everybody has their own way of dealing.  Some people like Anna take on a more insightful approach hanging on to the memories (secretly of course), others like Frankie act out and then there are those who withdraw from the world like the mom.  Sarah Ockler has impressed me with her writing.  I think it takes a writer of great skill to come up with a plot that is fun and light but at the same time meaningful.  

 Every summer Frankie and her family go to their beach house in Zanzibar Bay .  Every summer Frankie and Matt come back with stories for Anna. Going back to a place filled with with such good times and memories is difficult but yet just a summer after Matt’s death the family heads back but this time with Anna in tow.  Ockler has managed to combine the heaviness of a tragedy with the lightheartedness of a perfect summer vacation at the beach. Frankie is determined despite everything to have the best summer ever and it starts with a guy hunt – 20 guys by the end of the summer – for each of them.  The secret of Matt really bogs Anna down on this quest. Her grief genuinely touched me and her confusion about keeping Matt close to heart or finding a new love was very believable.  There is hope in this quest. Will this be the summer that Anna actually finds love again?  

 What does Sarah Ockler have next up her sleeve?  If this book is any indication, I am sure her next book will be just as good.  I can’t wait to find out……