rating: 3 of 5 stars
I wanted so much to like this book and instead was vaguely disappointed by the lack of depth and inner dialogue at several critical points.
This is the story of three friends, Anna, Frankie and Matt (Frankie and Matt are siblings, Anna is the girl-next-door), and how Matt's death changes things. Just before he died, Anna and Matt had started a clandestine relationship while Matt waited for the right moment to tell Frankie. After his death, Anna keeps it all to her self, writing letters/journal entries and "talking" to him, while outwardly portraying her grief as that of best-friend-to-sister-of-Matt.
Matt's death wasn't due to carelessness, drunk driving, or anything "teachable": he had a heart defect and was unlucky enough to be driving (with Anna and Frankie) at the time. This was one of those could have happened anywhere/any time events, and so is glossed over. The majority of the book takes place a year later, as his family heads to California for their annual vacation and Anna comes along to help Frankie get over her grief.
You see glimpses of what Frankie's going through (dressing more provocatively, smoking, grades going down, acting out) but you never really get a sense of what Anna thinks about this or what she has tried to do other than be there for Frankie. She even goes along with the "20 boy summer" idea without a lot of internal process.
Most disturbing was the almost blase way in which Anna's losing her virginity was handled. Dubbed "Anna's Albatross" (and the reason for the 20 boy idea - surely one of them will Do the Deed) by Frankie, you never get how Anna feels about it. When she finally does have sex, any thoughts or emotions are swept away by the drama of Frankie finding out about Matt/Anna.
Given that there was a lot of Anna "hearing" Matt's voice, talking to him, thinking about him, I expected something more in the way of self-reflection and internal conflict at times. Anna seemed too passive in places, which didn't ring true. Perhaps as an adult I expected more, and younger (eg, teen) readers will not.
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