Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler, is about two teenage girls on summer vacation. It's also about dealing with grief.
Anna grew up with her two best friends, Frankie, and Frankie's older brother, Matt, living next door.
But on Anna's fifteenth birthday, her relationship with Matt changed. Her secret birthday wish had become a reality. Matt had kissed her, and from that moment, things were different.
For a month, they sneaked out to their backyards at night while their families slept. They were reluctant to tell anyone, thinking that Frankie would feel like an outsider now. How, and when, and who should tell her?
It was almost time for Matt's family's annual California vacation, and he promised Anna he would tell Frankie while they were there.
But Matt dies right before they are scheduled to leave.
The story begins at about the same time the following year. Frankie and her parents are going back to their vacation spot for the first time since Matt's death. This time they are taking Anna with them. She still has not told Frankie about what had happened with Matt.
Frankie, (who claims she is no longer a virgin), is determined that Anna will have her first romantic encounter while they are on vacation. Anna agrees to the plan, but without much enthusiasm. That is, until she meets Sam.
Woven through the story are the different ways the girls - and the parents - try to deal with their loss.
Twenty Boy Summer, along with Speak and Slaughterhouse Five are three books that are in danger of being removed from the Republic, Missouri, schools, thanks to Wesley Scroggins, an assistant professor at Missouri State University in Springfield.
Scroggins says that the Rupublic schools teach "principles contrary to the Bible". Among his complaints are that they teach evolution, use inappropriate material in sex education and that they use textbooks with errors about government and history.
All three books have been called "vile" by at least one person who supports Scroggins.
On a positive note, students at SMU (where Scroggins teaches) protested by holding public readings of the books on campus. Drury University (also in Springfield) joined them by reading aloud on the Olin Library steps at Drury.
I have to wonder if people who attempt book bans ever actually read the books. I have heard over and over (once from a librarian), that they usually do not.
If they do, how do they miss the story? It would seem they simply flip through the pages looking for "dirty words", or anything else that might offend them.
Update: July, 2011
Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer is one of two books removed from the Republic, MO, school curriculum and library, after the school board voted on three books earlier this month.
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five was also removed.
The board voted to keep Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
The three books were in question after a Republic resident, Wesley Scroggins, complained about them last year. (See above.)
Superintendent Vern Minor stated that feedback for Twenty Boy Summer focused on "sensationalizing sexual promiscuity".
Also mentioned were "questionable language", "drunkenness", "lying to parents", and "lack of remorse by the characters", all of which led to banning the book.
It's too bad they couldn't see beyond that to the real message of the story.
Up-date: August, 2011
Sarah Ockler will be in Springfield, MO for Banned Books Week in September!