Friday, January 13, 2012

Review - Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean
by Kevin Henkes
Date: 2003
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 217
Format: hardcover
Source: library

"Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew."

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends. But they weren't -- and now all that is left are eerie connections between two girls who were in the same grade at school and who both kept the same secret without knowing it.

Now Martha can't stop thinking about Olive. A family summer on Cape Cod should help banish those thoughts; instead, they seep in everywhere.

And this year Martha's routine at her beloved grandmother's beachside house is complicated by the Manning boys. Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke, and Leo. But especially Jimmy. What if, what if, what if, what if?

The world can change in a minute.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'd never heard of this book, but when I saw it at the library, I thought it looked like something I might enjoy.  It was a fairly good read, though not perfect.

The book takes place on the Atlantic coast, at Martha's grandmother's house.  It's sort of a coming-of-age story, with early romantic feelings playing a role.  The side story about Olive Barstow was just that: a side story.  I wish that that aspect of the plot had been a little more developed.  I also would have liked to see more about Martha's desire to be a writer.  For someone with that aspiration, she didn't seem to write very much.

I wasn't sure I liked the supporting characters in this book.  Martha's little sister was a total brat, a product of atrocious parenting by a couple of stereotypes (a frazzled stay-at-home father and an overachieving mother who's clueless about her offspring); it made me wonder how Martha and Vince (her older brother) could've turned out so normal.  Martha was a likable enough main character, though she didn't always come across evenly.  Sometimes she seemed her age, but at other times her thoughts and speech seemed just a bit off: too mature and sophisticated.  It was almost as though the author was struggling to see things from inside the head of a 12-year-old girl.

While I would have liked to see more in the way of plot, what was there flowed along nicely.  The writing was good but, again, the style didn't really fit with the age of the characters or the reading audience.  (I don't have that small of a vocabulary, and there were a few words that had me pulling out the dictionary!)

All in all, it wasn't a bad book, and I did somewhat enjoy it.  I'm confused as to why it received a Newbery Honor, though; I didn't think it was that great.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.43 out of 5


  1. I often feel that way about the Newberys. This one was very forgettable. And you are right--not much plot.

  2. Yes, but kudos to just picking a book off the shelf at the library. I need to do that more often.

    I'm always confused when books win awards that really aren't THAT amazing. Confusing.