Banned Books Week: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

It’s Banned Books Week so I’m highlighting a different banned book each day this week.  My posts will include the banned book, where/why it’s been banned (or challenged), my opinion, and a student’s opinion.  I’m also hosting a banned books giveaway, so I hope you’ll check it out and enter to win a banned book of your choice.

Banned Book: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Challenged in the Republic, Mo. schools (2010) because it is “soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex.”  (Source–Quote taken from ALA banned books resource page)

My Thoughts: I was outraged about this last year when the challenge first came up.  It upsets me all over again now reading why it’s been challenged and knowing that Sarah Ockler’s debut novel is still off shelves in that school district.  Any person who has read Twenty Boy Summer knows it’s the farthest thing from “soft-pornography.”

I am constantly encouraging my students to read Twenty Boy Summer because it’s an excellent book that handles tough situations very well.  Anna and Frankie are suffering greatly over Matt’s sudden death.  Anna is suffering privately because she never told Frankie that she and Matt (Frankie’s brother) were dating when he died.  Can you imagine not being able to tell your best friend that and have her to console you?  Anna and  Frankie are helping each other deal with Matt’s death, but it’s not complete for Anna when Frankie doesn’t even know how deeply hurt Anna is.  Frankie isn’t handling her brother’s death well at all and is acting out.

What can readers take away from Sarah Ockler’s touching novel?  They can take away lessons in maintaining friendships through honesty, understanding and compassion.  They can take away a better understanding of how people grieve and how to deal with grief.  The best thing?  Yes, I’m speaking of “lessons,” but this isn’t a preachy novel.  I never felt like Sarah Ockler was trying to hammer a message into my brain, but when I finished reading this novel I know I had a better understanding of the fragility of friendships and love.  The focus of this novel is not sex and partying.  It’s all about forgiveness, understanding, letting go, and learning to love again.

Student Response: This response comes from one of my YA Lit students, Mackenzie.  She’s “new” to reading and recently read Twenty Boy Summer as part of her trimester project.  “I don’t see how Twenty Boy Summer is on the banned books list.  When I read the book I didn’t think the main point of it was about sex and alcohol.  I thought it was more about Anna telling Frankie about her and Matt.”


  1. This makes me so sad! I adored Twenty Boy Summer and I definitely agree with you, there was a lot that I took from that book and NONE of it had to do with “soft pornography.” People can be so dumb and closed-minded sometimes!

  2. Amen sister. I didn’t see at all. I cried with Anna & Matt’s family. I wish I had a hard copy for my students. I would totally recommend. Sex is so on the periphery.

  3. I agree this book is defiantly not glorifying any of that, its describing Anna’s struggle to tell Frankie.


  1. […] Lit class and one of the most popular project choices is the banned books project.  Unfortunately, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler has been banned, but fortunately it’s one of the most popular books in my […]

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