Just finished Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes. It’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages; or at least since it came out in 2003. It was a Nerwbery Honor Book, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults for a very good reason. It’s really really really good.
To start, I loved the cover which is simultaneously soothing and provocative; so like the story. Twelve year old Martha opens the door the day before she and her family are to leave for summer vacation to find a stranger, with a disturbing message from the grave. She is Olive’s mother and she is there to thank Martha for befriending Olive, and to deliver a page from Olive’s diary. But Martha barely knew Olive, a classmate who was recently killed when she was hit by a car while riding her bike. But, with a page from Olive’s life before her, Martha realizes that they might easily have been friends. Thus Olive becomes a messenger from the grave; a catalyst to changes in the way Martha looks at herself, and her world, including her aging grandmother.
A stolen kiss, a near drowning, baby food jars of coloured water that refract the ligh, a stolen video tape, and sea water in a jar. These are the materials that Henkes weaves into a most poignant of novels.