My boss thought differently. YA contemporary has quite a market now, so it's on my list whether I want it or not. To convince myself one way or the other, I went to the bookstore and roamed the shelves. I went beyond the bestsellers. I walked past the fantasies. I bypassed anything of usual interest to me. Slowly, like approaching a wild rapid dog, I entered the land of YA. And spent a good ten minutes in the fantasy. That out of the way, I finally went to the contemporary shelf.
Fighting back sarcasm and snorts at the pretty girls on the covers, and titles that made me want to vomit all my teenage years up, I began looking in earnest. Some of them didn't look too bad, I realized. Some of them actually looked readable. I stayed away from the ones with girls in short skirts or anything that looked like a teenage romance (It was meant to be! I'm 15 and in looooove!--did I mention I am bitter and cynical?)
One of the last I texted to myself (sorry booksellers, I'm broke; I go to the public library), was "Twenty Boy Summer" by Sarah Ockler. The cover was innocent enough: blue glass in the shape of a heart. And I loved the title. This is one book I picked up solely for its title. It was a fun concept. A fun social experiment--one I'm much too chicken to actually attempt myself. Then I read the jacket blurb, as follows:
"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."
I was sold. And the book didn't disappoint.
First line: "Frankie Perino and I were lucky that day." Good enough first line, but it's the first page that really catches you, makes you think, "Oh, what's this now?"
Beefs: Actually, the first two chapters I was still skeptical about the teenage romance thing (it is well written, and they were good chapters, just my bitter and cynical side saying "Ugh, love doesn't exist"). But then chapter three really starts into the heart of the story and I was hooked from then on. I got only four hours of sleep one night because I could not stop reading it.
Brownie Points: One of the biggest reasons we discard a manuscript, or one of the biggest things we tell first time authors to change, is back story dump. If you want an example of how back story can actually work, read this book. And guess what? It doesn't feel like a back story dump. It's woven into the novel, it sets everything up so perfectly, you aren't thinking "back story!"
Ending: Satisfying. And I wasn't puking my guts out because of the teenage romance bubble of happiness and mini skirts and cute boys (because the bubble didn't exist).
Recommendation: Read it. And recommend it to others. And check out Ockler's new book coming out this winter. Did I mention "Twenty Boy Summer" was her debut novel? Pretty impressive eh? We will see good things from her, I'm sure of it.
And here is a new section to my weekly book review: "Would I represent it?" Pretty self explanatory. And it's different than the overall "Do I like it" category. Just because I like something, doesn't mean I'll represent it. So...
Would I represent it?: Yes. Big fat yes! This is the sort of contemporary novel I love. Real girls. Real situations. Real grief. Real love. The voice is by turns funny and sad, but always real.
So there's your recommendation for the week. As always, my very attentive readers, happy reading!