Twelve-year-old Martha wants to be a writer when she grows up. What she never knew was that her shy classmate, Olive, also wanted to be a writer. She only finds out when Olive dies in an accident and her mother brings Martha a page from Olive’s journal. The page of secret thoughts brings with it many realizations for Martha, only one of which is that life is short and anything can happen to any of us at any time. When Martha heads to the Cape for their yearly trip she has no idea how many other changes are in store for her this summer. Being at the beach, with her eyes open, will have her noticing and experiencing things that will excite her, sadden her, worry her, and help her to grow. What is going on with her grandmother? Why is her dad so unhappy? Does she have her first crush, and does he like her back? Martha wants to be true to Olive and do right by her, but can she do it? Reading this realistic fictional book will make you think about your own life and how you want to live it!
I think this book would be especially helpful for kids who have lost a classmate or kids who are on the brink of becoming teenagers themselves. I found the story to be touching and eye-opening. Martha is going through the same thought process that other kids like her are going through, and it's helpful for kids to know that they aren’t alone in their thoughts about their first crush, betrayals, and new grown-up worries. I especially liked how the beach was a backdrop for Martha. Through her experiences there she grew and reflected on her life. I always find that the beach helps me to think and clear my head, so I felt it was easy to relate to Martha. The book has some sadness, but through the story we are reminded that, although life has its ups and downs, it's important to appreciate each other, our differences, and to follow our heart. We can’t lose sight of what it important. I would recommend this book to kids in fourth grade through middle school because of the insights that Martha has and what she is going through. Also, although it didn’t bother me because I found it fit Martha’s emotions, there were a couple instances of mild bad language throughout the book (but it does go along with Martha’s up and down feelings throughout the book). It is a story that settled over me and wormed its way into my mind. I liked the slow way it made me think about life and to appreciate each day.
Has anyone else read Olive’s Ocean? Or have you read another book by Kevin Henkes? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Happy reading! ~ L