Monday, January 14, 2013

Olivia Bean,Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean is one unhappy girl.  Her father and mother are divorced and he has since remarried - to her best friend's mother and now, the three of them are living clear across the county in California.  Even watching Jeopardy is the same.  Mom's fiancee Neil keeps trying to hone in on it, but Olivia has no use for playing Jeopardy with him.  Trivia and Jeopardy used to be Olivia and her father's thing to do together.  Olivia is still obsessed with trivia, and she's pretty good at it, too.  Well, except for geography.

Then one day her former friend and neighbor turned enemy Tucker Thomas tells Olivia that auditions for kids' week on Jeopardy are going to be held in NY.  Brilliant!  Olivia has been dreaming of seeing her dad again, since he is always too busy to call her and her little brother Charlie.  She knows that once they were together again, things would be better.  And if she could only master geography, she would have a chance of getting on Jeopardy.  And that means going to California and seeing Dad.  And as it happens, Tucker is pretty good at geography.

Pretty soon, Olivia is getting trivia help from everyone - Tucker, Mom, little brother Charles and even pain in the neck Neil.  And Olivia does indeed makes the cut at the auditions. Pretty soon, the whole family, including Neil, is on its way to California.   Olivia's can hardy contain her excitement over her planned reunion with her dad.   But will it all be as perfect as she has imagined it will be?  Or will Olivia finally see her dad for who he is?

When I first started reading Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen I didn't much care for it.  What a selfish, whinny brat, I kept thinking.  But I pushed on and to my surprise, I ended up really liking this novel and Olivia. She is a strong protagonist, and it turns out, a very kind one.  While Olivia may be a girl with a dream who works very hard to make that dream come true, she is really not so self-centered that she doesn't appreciate the people around her who care about her.  Even in the face of so many obstacles, like her mother losing her job and money being so short, she doesn't get so discouraged, she gives up.

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is a very nice coming of age story for middle grade readers, many of whom may be facing the same difficulties in their lives as Olivia does in hers - things like divorce, job loss, money problems, dealing with a new dad.  But in dealing with these things, Olivia finds out as much about herself as her does other people.  Personally, I think the biggest most important thing Olivia learns this that people are not always who she thought they were, and she learns to handles this revelation with a new found maturity.

This is a well written, tight story that has as much humor as it does problems, giving it a nice balance.  I do wonder how many kids are so taken with trivia and Jeopardy, but I don't think they would have to be to relate to this book.

I also love the Jeopardy trivia at the end of the novel, interesting stuff for anyone interested in this popular show.

This book is recommended for readers age 9-12
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL


  1. I'll keep this book in mind for my daughter (she "loves it" when I force her to watch Jeopardy with me :) ).

  2. And she is almost the right age for it. She may like Jepardy a more when she's a little older.

  3. Thanks very much for your thoughtful review of OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN!

  4. This was a great book. I really enjoyed it, and so did my daughter.

  5. Great review. I'm in SCBWI-FL with the author, Donna Gephart. She's a terrific person. This is her third book and she has another one coming out. You might want to look at her first two books. They are great for middle-grade, too, and filled with humor.


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