Oct 12, 2010

Tween Tuesday: Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, the Universe and Everything by Rebecca Rupp

5 super yummy peanut butter cookies.
Tween Tuesday is hosted by Sarah--the Greenbeanteenqueen. Check her out!

Cover Love: Very appealing--good colors. Great intro set--why is she growing a plant in a jar? Hits right notes with target audience.

Why I Wanted to Read This: Sometimes you request an ARC and the oh-so wonderful publisher sends you that one and a few others. I always feel like I should read the ones I didn't request because they were nice enough to send the first one. I got this from Candlewick and picked it up this month because I knew it would be perfect for Tween Tuesday. Here's the synopsis from Candlewick:

Octavia’s best friend, Andrew, wants to know why time runs forward instead of backward, or if it’s possible to talk to an alien jellyfish. Octavia has much bigger questions on her mind: Why do bad things happen, like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? Octavia’s artist father, Boone, is convinced that Henry David Thoreau holds the key. Meanwhile, her mother, Ray, has always been seeking the larger meaning of life--until now. Not only have Octavia’s parents come up with different answers to the big questions, but their answers are threatening to tear her family apart. Could it be that some questions are too big to have just one answer? Could it be that the universe is far wider than Octavia’s--or perhaps anyone’s--views of it? After her parents find clashing answers to life’s big questions, it’s time for Octavia to make some choices of her own in this poignant, funny, thought-provoking novel.

I Kept Reading Because: It was so well written. I kind of "assigned" myself this book, I knew the date I wanted to get it read by for Tween Tuesday. So, I picked it up on a Saturday evening to try and get it all read by the end of the weekend. Mission accomplished, I couldn't put it down. It just brought me back to my fourth/fifth/sixth grade reading days. It reminded me so strongly of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret that it was almost like a nostalgic read for me.

Romance?: Not a lick for our main character.

What I Liked (& Didn't): This was a very emotional coming of age story. But, one that I would read again someday. I didn't sob like I have done reading other books, however, had it been a more emotional "time of month" for me, I would have bawled.

Octavia is a such a good voice. A strong young character who realizes things are spinning out of control but is trying to stay true to herself and how she was raised. The changes in her life come at the time in her life where she is aware that she has opinions and can make choices, it is just getting the adults in her life to listen to her that is she has troubles with. It's hard in middle school to get an adult to listen to you and take you seriously, especially when they truly believe what they are having you do is what is best for you.

We have to talk a little about Octavia's mom because what she goes through is so major for Octavia. Her mom is constantly on the search for "meaning" in her life. Octavia briefly fills us in on what she has gone through. At this time in Octavia's life she has found religion and has joined a very strict church (a cult perhaps). She makes Octavia join her on her journey when it is clearly not what Octavia wants. I wanted to slap her mom several times over the course of the book. Then I wanted to slap her dad.

There are so many thought provoking scenes in this book. I think it would be an outstanding book club book for middle school girls (& boys if you could get them to read it). There is a discussion among Octavia and the other students in her church school class about obedience that is a fantastic scene.

I think it would be so very hard for a middle school girl, who is already going through many things, to have her mom pull away from her life Octavia's mom did. Seriously, she really made me mad.

I actually felt very sad for Octavia's mom at first because I can't imagine always searching for the meaning of life like that. And then I was mad at how she pulled away from Octavia. I have always been pretty secure in my place in the world, not someone to search like she did, but when I had my first child, that was when I truly knew the whole reason I was born. And that was to be his mom. For someone who is a mom to not feel that makes me sad for them.

There was also a lot of humor in this book! The scene in the hair salon had me laughing out loud. I think it's rare to find an author who can walk that line between humor and drama for this age group.

To Sum Up: Excellent book for middle school girls or if you have or teach middle school girls or if you ever were a middle school girl. One not to be missed!


  1. This one sounds very thought-provoking!! I wonder if it would be okay for fifth grade girls? It is difficult to imagine moms who do emotionally abandon their children-I love that you "wanted to slap" her for her un-motherly behavior!

  2. I think that it would be very fine for fifth grade girls! I think it would be very thought provoking and maybe a reading group/book club type book.

  3. This sounds really intersting! I love the photo on the cover, but the font makes the book look like its geared to a younger audience.

  4. Excellent review, Jana. You made me wish I still taught 7th grade! :-)

  5. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I like your review! Thank you! I'm a children's librarian who hasn't seen the book and think I will add it to the wish list.