Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Banned Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: 290

Quality Rating: 7
Content Rating: R

The Quality Rating:
The real reason for a "7" in quality rating is that honestly contemporary books really aren't my thing, even setting aside the whole YA aspect. Somehow I have a hard time relating to a teenage girl, which is weird since I was one three years ago, but then again I didn't relate to teenage girl protagonists even when I was one. But that's my own personal baggage. Book wise, this book was an engaging read that isn't really about what the title indicates. Hearing this book is banned and looking at the title, one's mind might jump to the gutter and think it's about sleeping with twenty boys in one summer. Let me assure you that this is incorrect. The title comes from the idea that the two girls in the story will talk to (or flirt with) twenty boys in the summer, at least one for each day they are on vacation, in the hopes that one might be a summer romance.

Truly though, this book isn't about romance. It's about grief and mourning. The premise of the story is that there were three best friends, two of which were brother and sister. The brother and other friend (the next door neighbor) have a kindling romance, but the brother doesn't want to tell his sister yet for fear of hurting her. Then before either can tell her, the brother dies. So the sister has to get through her grief of her brother dying, and the other friend has to get through losing a boy she loved--a boy no one knows she loved.

This story did at times make my eyes a little moist. No full fledged tears, but it was very moving. You have two girls who are both dealing with grief and their different ways, and one who feels like she can't even share her grief with anyone else. It's a story about moving on, without forgetting the person who has died. I found the story to be excellent and a good read, even if its not my usual cup of tea. I found I liked it, despite the fact it took place on a beach in California and not in a fantasy land.

The Content Rating (aka probably why someone tried to ban this book):
This book has underage drinking and premarital sex. Worse in many eyes, it has teenage premarital sex. (Can we really say one sin is worse than another? I'm not sure. Granted I would rather not my theoretical teenage kids be having sex, but does it really matter if there sixteen or twenty if they're not married? Either way it's wrong).

I didn't find the sex to be too descriptive or graphic, thank goodness, for sex scenes certainly aren't my cup of tea. I don't prefer them or really like them in my books. But I didn't feel like Ockler was glorifying teenage sex at all. Granted, there didn't seem to be a clear message of "premarital teenage sex is bad", but I felt like the character didn't have sex because she particularly wanted to. Rather she did it, because she felt like it was something she had to do--part of growing up, if you will. The sex seemed empty and hollow, and I think that's on purpose.

Would I prefer my (theoretical) ten year old to read this book? No. But this book does bring up discussion for parents and teenagers (probably of the female variety, since I doubt too many males will be reading this book). It allows teenagers to ask themselves the question like "is sex just a coming of age thing that you have to do?" I think that's a valid discussion point in today's society. At least, from what books and television seem to be telling me. None of my friends had sex in high school. Heck, the one guy whose girlfriend offered herself to him for sex broke up with her. True story. A male broke up with a female because he didn't want to have sex with her in high school. According to the media, that would never happen. But this was like six years ago, and it did happen, so take that media.

Banning Books, an Aside
It is important for every parent to try to know what their kid is reading. It's an impossible task if your kid is a voracious reader like me, but banning books isn't really the answer. What do I think the answer is? Hmmm....maybe you should check out my past post on Rating Books.

The moral of the story is that no non-parental unit has any right to tell a kid what they shouldn't read. That's a decision between parents and the teens. It's not the school's decisions or the districts. So even though Twenty Boy Summer wasn't my cup of tea (though it was a very good book), I still read it to support books and the freedom to read them.

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