Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Anna is accompanying her friend Frankie and Frankie's parents on their annual summer trip to California. But this trip isn't all about fun and games, since Frankie's brother Matt died shortly before their scheduled trip the year before, and his family is still working through their grief. But what they don't know is that about a month before Matt died, he kissed his long-time friend Anna and they began a secret relationship. Though they had planned to tell Frankie, Matt died before he had a chance to, and now Anna carries the secret for herself. Frankie, having reacted to her grief by dressing and acting like a girl whose sole mission is to get boys' attention, proposes a mission - to get twenty boys to interact with them over the course of their month in California. Frankie lightheartedly agrees, but she knows that her memory of Matt will always get in the way. The vacation starts out fun, as planned, with plenty of nighttime sneaking out and lots of great beach and boy time. But Anna is conflicted because of her developing feelings for another boy, and Frankie's still-not-dealt-with grief pops up in frightening ways until she and Anna have a full-out fight.
Wow - writing that summary was really, really hard. The reason, I think, is that usually there is one plot line to follow and in the summary, I just pick points along that line to mention. In this book, there is no clear plot line, as there are many issues being dealt with. There's Anna's struggle over losing a boyfriend who no one knew was anything more than her friend, and helping his sister through her grief without being able to react as a family member would to his death. There's Frankie's acting out in reaction to her brother's death, and her parents' inability to deal with their own or their daughter's grief. There's Frankie's parents' complete lack of discipline that allows the girls to sneak out every night. There's Anna's conflict over getting a new boyfriend and feeling like she is betraying Matt by kissing another boy. And there's the issue of sex and virginity in regard to both Anna and Frankie.
All these points could make a great, complex story. In fact, while I was reading the book, I was drawn into the story and felt connected to the characters. But at the end, I felt like things were left hanging. Most of the issues are left unresolved - the question of whether Anna was getting in the way of Frankie's dealing with her grief is not answered, Frankie's parents are just as oblivious and nothing is done about it... The only storyline that is resolved is Anna's conflicted feelings about Matt and her new boyfriend.
So although the writing is great and moved me at times, on the whole the book fell kind of flat for me. It's a good book, but I think it would have been better if the author had focused on fewer issues and given those fewer points more attention and resolution.