Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Olive’s Ocean. Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, c.2005. 224 pages.


It has been weeks since Olive Barstow was hit by a car while riding her bike and killed when Olive’s mother visits Martha Boyle, giving her a page from Olive’s journal. In her journal, Olive wrote of her hopes; her hope to grow up to be a writer, to visit the ocean, and to become friends with Martha. Martha is struck by the similarities between Olive and herself. Martha’s secret wish is also to be a writer, and she’ll be visiting the ocean soon. Martha is haunted by thoughts of Olive over the summer and begins her own mortality and how quickly life can change.

Review/personal thoughts:

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes is a beautiful, character-driven novel. Twelve-year-old Martha Boyle spends her summer haunted by the thoughts of a dead classmate she hardly knew. Though Martha hardly knew Olive Barstow, she learns that while alive Olive also wanted to be a writer. This and other similarities between the girls cause Martha to ponder her own mortality as well as life’s inevitable changes.

Genre: contemporary realistic

Reading level: ages 9 to 12


ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice

ALA Notable Children’s Book

Newbery Honor Book

Virginia Young Readers Award

ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Similar titles: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

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