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Ruby and Olivia Hardcover – October 24, 2017
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From School Library Journal
"Equal parts preteen drama and ghost story, Ruby & Olivia will delight young readers with its mild spookiness that remains grounded in the everyday complexities of family, friendship, and finding yourself."—Booklist
"As they work to solve the mystery of Live Oak House, Ruby and Olivia become fast friends while also encouraging the best in each other. . . . This lightly spooky story demonstrates the complexities of preteen girl relationships."—Kirkus Reviews
"This is a lightly creepy haunted house mystery for fans of books like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline or Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase—though not as scary."—School Library Journal
"Readers who enjoy stories where the ghosts turn out to be as real as the friendships required to bust ’em are the audience for this."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
- Publisher : G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (October 24, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 039916961X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0399169618
- Reading age : 8 - 12 years
- Lexile measure : 870L
- Grade level : 3 - 7
- Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.75 x 0.88 x 8.56 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,044,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This M.G book is an eclectic mix; it is a coming of age story and a ghost story.
Olivia is the fall guy for her twin sister Em, and her punishment for "her" wrongdoing is a summer day camp for miscreants, where she meets her old adversary, Ruby, who is surprised to find her there. After all, Ruby is the feisty "bad girl" troublemaker, and Liv is the "good girl."
Through their unexpected adventures at the camp, and in particular, at a creepy mansion, Ruby and Olivia, who do not get on at first, grow to like each other and become best of friends. This is a big surprise, since, until the cooling of their friendship, Ruby had been friendly with Olivia's sister, Emma. The outsider, Olivia, is no longer the outsider and finds her own voice and identity.
The themes of the story are carefully interwoven - loyalty, values, belonging and friendship on one side, and adolescent angst, exclusion, and conflict on the other. Hawkins shows that by being our authentic selves we grow to respect and embrace differences in others. True friends overcome disagreements which, in the long run, strengthens bonds between them.
Hawkins also shows that we have to put the past to rest in order to move forward in our lives, and her handling of the "taboo" theme of bereavement in the book is compelling. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of Ruby, for whom we feel compassion towards the end of the book.
The story is set in small-town America and Live Oaks, the mansion in the story, is a character in the book, and a metaphor for writing unheard histories.
Hawkins takes issue with "labeling" people as "good" or "bad" and the story makes us question authority figures and the "remedies" society takes with young people whose lives are troubled. At the same time, it shows that characters are transformed and grow through working together with shared experiences, with the choices and decisions they make revealing their true identities. Hawkins admirably challenges gender stereotypes with two young women facing up to their fears and emerging as stronger people.
My only criticism of the book is that the first few chapters lacked pace, and I would have liked to have seen more foreshadowing of the creepy mansion experiences earlier on in the story.
I liked how Ruby & Olivia eventually bonded at Camp Chrysalis and how their relationship strengthened authentically towards the end. Each of them also had to resolve issues in their own lives and learn how to deal with people in a way that was authentic to who they really were. But growth was definitely observed in each of their personalities. Spunky, brave, and outspoken Ruby softens a bit and learns to have some boundaries, while Olivia learns to speak up about how she truly feels about things. Each of these girls take something important away from Camp Chrysalis. So that was a good thing. And an added bonus is that they had more fun at Camp Chrysalis than they thought they would have! Who knew doing community service could turn into fun?!
It was so much fun reading about Ruby & Olivia's investigative activities, thoughts, and paranormal sleuthing when it came to the strange activity going on at Live Oak House. I really wanted them to figure out what was behind it all. At some points, you can't help but laugh at their antics, in an enjoyable way. And the length these girls go to is incredibly honorable, even at the scariest of times at Live Oak House! Definitely impressive for young girls! It was also refreshing that the story is told in alternating points of view by Ruby & Olivia, so you really get an in-depth look at what each of the girls are thinking and feeling.
Olivia's twin Emma isn't a central role in this story, only mentioned sporadically, so I wish Emma was integrated more into the story. I felt that, being a twin myself, Olivia would have wanted to talk to Emma more while she was away and she would have wanted to tell her all about the creepiness of Live Oak House and maybe ask for her help on what to do. But the author does a good job of explaining away why this doesn't happen more often, even when some attempts to make contact are made but are not followed though. But I truly believe Emma being away at camp to create an intentional distance between the twins was an essential part of the plot. It was necessary in order for Olivia to become independent from her sister, develop her own identity, and grow as a person. I also liked how loyal Olivia was to Emma, but I wish the opposite was true as well. Too bad the loyalty had to be under these circumstances of being "punished" during the summer. Hawkins did a good job of describing the dynamics of twin relationships, and how they feel. I could definitely relate, especially when I was Olivia and Emma's age.
I liked the integration of the history of Live Oak House into the story. I love learning about history, especially if it pertains to a house that is considered haunted! Rachel Hawkins made this history lesson fun and interesting for kids, so they will want to be immersed in it! Also, the initial owner of the house, Felix Wrexhall, and his son Mr. Matthews were well known in the town due to happenings at Live Oak House, so this added to the drama for the kids in terms of the spook factor.
The ending felt a bit rushed and not as thoroughly developed as I would have liked. I wasn't completely satisfied with how the mechanics of the ending happened or the explanation of things and I was left with some questions at the end. But I did like the final outcome of the story. And I liked the overall message of the story. Ruby & Olivia was full of self-discovery, sisterhood, friendship, second chances, and the importance of learning from your mistakes. We can all learn something from Ruby and Olivia. It was a highly entertaining read, and I am sure not only middle grade kids and young adults will devour this book, but so will adults who are kids at heart! I enthusiastically recommend reading this book!