Banned Books #18 Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

banned books

Welcome to the last Banned Books feature of 2015. Beth and I take on reading a banned book and then answer questions about it.

This month we read Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes.

Olive's Ocean


Sometimes life can change in an instant.

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends, but they weren’t. Weeks after a tragic accident, all that is left are eerie connections between the two girls, former classmates who both kept the same secret without knowing it. Now, even while on vacation at the ocean, Martha can’t stop thinking about Olive. Things only get more complicated when Martha begins to like Jimmy Manning, a neighbor boy she used to despise. What is going on? Can life for Martha be the same ever again?

First published: 2001
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2007 (source)
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: It’s quite funny, Chrissi actually read this book first and told me that she couldn’t understand why it was banned then I read it and thought exactly the same. Then I visited the ALA website where we get our ideas for books from, saw the reasons and actually shouted out loud: “What?!.” This is one of our most recent books being published in 2001 but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no good reason either historically or now for this book being challenged/banned.

CHRISSI:  As Beth mentioned, I read this book before she did and I kept on messaging her saying I couldn’t understand why it was banned. I am still wondering why really. It says it’s because it has offensive language/sexually explicit but I think it’s particularly tame compared to some recent reads. I really don’t understand it, which is unusual for me, as I usually do ‘get’ why, even if I don’t agree with it.

How about now?

BETH: See above answer! The story is about a twelve year old girl who starts to learn a little more about life and love when a girl who attends her school is killed in a tragic car accident. I’m writing these answers a mere hour after finishing the book but I’m really struggling to remember even one instance of offensive language or a scene that was sexually explicit. This book has perhaps been confused with something else? That’s what it feels like anyway!

CHRISSI: I completely agree with Beth. I don’t think they’ve got the right book. It confused me so much when I was reading this book that I had to check with Beth that this was our Banned Books choice for the month!

What did you think of this book?

BETH: It was a quick, enjoyable read. I loved Martha’s quest to find herself as she embarks on those difficult teenage years. Her relationship with her grandmother, Godbee was adorable and I think her struggles with her family and her very first kiss means that a lot of children could identify with her. It’s one I would certainly recommend that libraries stock and certainly don’t agree with any challenges on its content.

CHRISSI:  It was cute and very easy to read. I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly memorable read, but it’s certainly a nice way to spend a few hours!

Would you recommend it?

BETH: Probably!


3 thoughts on “Banned Books #18 Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

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