Banned Books #18 Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Published December 28, 2015 by bibliobeth



What’s it all about?:

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?


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Welcome to our final book of 2015 and the eighteenth book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

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!


BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):


So that’s our banned books for 2015 over! We enjoyed doing this again so much that we’ve set up another year of banned books in 2016, list to be revealed shortly. Hope you’ve enjoyed this feature as much as us and have a great New Year!


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