In my October 23rd Blog I mentioned that I had attended a Barnes and Noble event where nine terrific YA authors talked about the writing process and their new books. One of these up and coming authors, Sarah Ockler, caught my attention, not only because she is involved in Lighthouse Writers Workshops, where I took a screenwriting class with Alexandre Philipe, but also because her first book Twenty Boy Summer, despite its lightweight title, was a complete delight. Now that Sarah Dessen has a young child and has understandably slowed down with her book releases, readers and librarians are looking for writers to fill the void. I would definitely recommend Sarah Ockler's books for these readers.
Twenty Boy Summer is a book about friendship and the grieving process. Anna and Frankie are next door neighbors and best friends. Frankie's brother Matt, who is two years older, is Anna's best friend, who is a boy. The three of them are inseparable. Anna has had a secret crush on Matt for years and on her fifteenth birthday he kisses her and acknowledges that he loves her, too. They are, of course, worried about trying to find a way to tell Frankie. Then Matt dies suddenly and Anna struggles with her grief, as well as the secret she decides to keep. After a year of grieving, Anna goes to California with Frankie for the family's annual trip. Frankie, who has dealt with her grief by becoming boy crazy, decides to set a goal of meeting twenty boys on the trip and flirts with everyone in sight. Ana is much more conservative but ends up falling for a surfer, and she feels like she is cheating on Matt's ghost. Then Frankie finds Anna's journal and freaks out when she discovers Anna's secret relationship with Matt. Now boys take a back seat and Anna and Frankie have to salvage their friendship.
Sarah latest book Fixing Delilah once again navigates the issues of the grieving process. Seventeen-year-old Delilah, whose life has been spiraling into free fall, is suddenly whisked off by her workaholic mother to Vermont to attend her estranged grandmother’s funeral and deal with the family summer home. Delilah has not been to Vermont since her grandfather's funeral a decade earlier, when her grandmother, mother and Aunt Rachel had a falling out. Delilah, who believes her father was a one night stand who died in Afghanistan before her mother could tell him about her pregnancy, cannot understand why her mother would keep her away from her family. When Delilah arrives in Vermont, she reconnects with her friend Patrick with whom she spent idyllic childhood summers. As she and Patrick fall in love, she uncovers the secret of her mother has been harboring. Delilah finds the diary of her Aunt Stephanie, who died under suspicious circumstances when she was nineteen. Suspecting that her family is plagued by problems with depression, Delilah worries that she will succmb herself. Ultimately Delilah realizes that she cannot escape the problems of her past but "some of them can be repaired, piece by piece, rebuilt into something even more cherished and loved and unique."
Although Sarah's Ockler's books are a bit more sexually explicit than Sarah Dessen's, romantic issues are dealth with tastefully. I would recommend them for mature middle level, as well as high school readers who like their chic lit a "cut above."