Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler.
When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it's three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).
They don't want to know that you'll never again eat birthday cake because you don't want to erase the magical taste of the frosting on his lips. That you wake up every day wondering why you got to live and he didn't. That on the first afternoon of your first real vacation, you sit in front of the ocean, face hot under the giant sun, willing him to give you a sign that he's okay.
I recently read Sarah Ocker's second novel, Fixing Delilah, so I wanted to go back and read this book, her debut novel. Great book with compelling characters, focusing on Anna and her best friend Frankie, who are still grieving the loss of Frankie's brother, Matt, in a car crash about a year before. Anna had loved Matt her whole life, but it was in the few months before he died that they had started secretly seeing each other. He had asked Anna not to tell Frankie about it - that he would, on their family trip to California - and she honored that promise; unfortunately, that ended up being one of the last times they had together. Anna and Frankie survived the car crash, but Matt did not - he died of a heart defect, which caused him to crash the car.
Now, Frankie has invited Anna along on her annual family trip to California, and their goal is to make it a "twenty boy summer" - they will each find twenty boys (their trip is about 2-3 weeks long) that they like on the trip, and perhaps Anna will even lose her virginity, as Frankie lost hers with a German exchange student a few months earlier.
I love good YA (Young Adult) novels, and this one definitely qualifies. As the reader, we can see why Anna is hesitant to date/find new boys, as she still isn't over losing Matt the way she did, but in time, she comes to realize that she can honor his memory but still find happiness in her own life.
4 stars out of 5.