Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes, was published in 2003 by Greenwillow Books.

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.

Henkes captures the awkward adolescent stage of girls so perfectly in this book. Martha is overdramatic, switches between hating, loving, and being embarrassed by her parents at a drop of the hat, and has butterflies over an older boy who pays attention to her. She hates change and at the same time craves it.

I think what I liked most about Olive’s Ocean was Martha’s thoughts. Perhaps it was the budding writer in her, but she thought deeply about things, especially Olive, and many of her actions were the result of her deep thinking. I enjoyed the glimpse of a young girl thinking through things, looking at the world around her and thinking about it, examining relationships and people. It’s a very thoughtful book, all around.

Still not a fan of preteen love, but at least it was really well done here, and mostly I thought it was cute. So, kudos to Henkes for making me not hate it.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: This book was apparently challenged because of sexual content. The only sexual content in this book is the word “sex.”

Genre: Realistic, Middle Grade

“I want to be a writer,” she announced slowly and softly, “unlike Dad. But it’s a secret,” she added quickly, her voice rising, indicating importance.

Godbee tripped the brim of her straw hat back. “How wonderful,” she whispered. “That’s great. A writer.”

Martha widened her eyes at the sea and blinked. Telling someone made it seem real. She nibbled on her bottom lip, holding back a smile.

“I didn’t even bring books to read this year,” said Martha. “So I can write.”

“My,” said Godbee. “That’s serious.”

Overall Review:

Olive’s Ocean is a very thoughtful book, and I enjoyed both Martha’s deep thoughts and Henkes’s spot-on portrayal of an adolescent girl with all her drama and mood swings. The crush/love aspect of it was cute enough that I didn’t mind it all that much, and even though Henkes has some interesting ways to describe things, I still thought it was a delightful book.

You can buy this here: Olive’s Ocean

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