Saturday, April 14, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Title:  Olive's Ocean

Author: Kevin Henkes

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year Published: 2001

Number of Pages: 217 pages

Date Read: 4/13/2012

Publisher:  Greenwillow Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 15+ (Strong Language and Discussions about Sex)

I have been reading many works by Kevin Henkes ever since I was a child, but they were all children’s books like “Chrysanthemum,” “Sheila Rae the Brave” and “Owen” and I had enjoyed every one!  Now, this is the first time I have read one of Kevin Henkes’ works that is actually aimed at teens and the first book I have read from Kevin Henkes’ teen reads collection is “Olive’s Ocean!”  “Olive’s Ocean” is a Newbery Honor book by Kevin Henkes and it details the turbulent life of Martha Boyle after the death of a schoolmate Olive Barstow.  “Olive’s Ocean” may have some slow scenes, but it is truly a heartwarming experience for people who have lost their loved ones.

Martha Boyle was a normal 12-year-old girl until one day, a classmate named Olive Barstow was killed by a car while she was riding her bicycle on Monroe Street.  Olive’s death has truly affected Martha, even though she never really knew Olive and so, to get Olive’s death off of Martha’s mind, Martha and her family (her father, her mother, her brother Vince and her baby sister Lucy) all decided to spend their summer vacation on Cape Cod where Martha’s grandmother, Godbee resided.  However, Martha will soon realize that her life might change forever when she meets up with the Manning boys (Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke and Leo).

For a long while now, I have been reading many young adult books that ranged from young adult books dealing with a scary and freaky dystopian future like “The Hunger Games” or young adult books that deal with teenagers that have supernatural powers like “Vampire Academy” and “Harry Potter.”  Now finally, I have come across a young adult book that is all about the dark yet realistic life of a normal teenager (or a preteen in this case) and how she deals with a troubling issue.  I have always loved Kevin Henkes’ writing in his children’s books as they depict real-life situations in a cute and funny way, but his writing in “Olive’s Ocean” depicts real life in a brooding yet realistic way, which was quite a surprising turn for my reading experience!  Kevin Henkes’ writing is truly sad yet beautiful at the same time as we truly feel for Martha Boyles’s situation about dealing with the death of a classmate that she barely know.  I actually have that same experience that Martha had as many of my classmates in high school had died and even though I never knew any of them, their deaths really left a huge impact on me since I was upset that they would die at such a young age.  What was so unusual about this book is that even though Olive Barstow’s name is in the title, the story really revolves around Martha Boyle and how she deals with Olive’s death and it is rare for me to see a book that has a character’s name in the title, but the book does not really revolve around that person, but about how their deaths affected the person who knew them.  I also loved the way that this book was set up as the pages look like something that came out of a journal and each chapter details the daily activities that Martha does during her stay at Cape Cod.  I really loved the relationship that Martha shares with her grandmother Godbee as it reminds me of my relationship with my grandmother and it was great that Kevin Henkes was able to showcase this relationship extremely beautifully.

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because there are some slow scenes in the story that made me feel a little bored about the direction that the story was taking.  Sometimes the narrative would drone on a bit before it got to the interesting parts of the story.  Also, I kind of wish there was more romance in this novel since I am a huge romance buff, but I felt that the romance in this book was not really needed since the main theme of this book was of Martha dealing with the death of Olive.  Also, one of the reasons why this book was often on the banned books list is that it contains some strong language that is a bit strong for a young adult book, even though this would not bother me and it was only like one or two mild curse words.

Overall, “Olive’s Ocean” is a great story about dealing with the death of a loved one and how you have to enjoy life while you are still alive.  

REASON FOR BEING BANNED:  For having sexually explicit content and offensive language.

* Winner: 2004 Newbery Honor
* Nominee: 2005 Bluebonnet Award Nominee

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