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Olive's Ocean Summary

Olive’s Ocean opens as a stranger knocks on twelve-year-old Martha Boyle’s door and hands her a piece of paper. She identifies herself as Olive Barstow’s mother, then she thanks Martha and leaves. Martha is startled because Olive was a girl in her grade last year who had recently died after being hit by a car. She opens up the paper and finds that it is an entry from Olive’s journal. In it, Olive expresses her wishes to see the Atlantic Ocean one day before she dies, to become a writer, and to make kids like her. In life, Olive had been shy and different, so other children picked on her all of the time. Also, Olive wrote that Martha was the nicest girl in their entire class at school. This surprises Martha because she had barely known Olive, and she certainly had not gone out of her way to be kind to her. This makes her reflect on the entire school year, everything she said to Olive, and what more she could have done to be nice to her. That evening, as she is watching her two-year-old sister Lucy, she takes Lucy out for a walk in a stroller to the place where Olive died, a busy street in town where Olive was hit by a car. Martha ponders Olive, this mysterious almost stranger, and the thread that tied their lives together.

Olive’s journal entry haunts Martha for the rest of the month as her family goes on vacation at her grandmother’s house on the Atlantic Ocean. Martha and everyone else calls her grandmother “Godbee,” which is the name Martha gave her when she was too young to pronounce Grandma. Martha loves her grandmother and being at her grandmother’s house on the ocean. When they arrive, her older brother, Vince, goes to play with the neighbor boys who live down the beach, and he spends most of his time at their house during the vacation. Godbee tells Martha that each day they need to tell each other something about themselves they haven’t told anyone else. Martha automatically thinks about her wish to be a writer, something she has not expressed because her father is currently writing a book and she does not want to seem like a copycat. Her father used to be a lawyer but quit to be home with her and Lucy, and he has been writing a novel. Her mother works as a talk-show host on the radio to support the family. During the course of their vacation, however, Martha’s father decides he wants to go back to work; Martha then tells him about her wish to be a writer. He is happy for her and encourages her to fulfill that desire.

Martha spends her days on the beach, playing with Lucy, talking with Godbee, and trying to start her first novel. One day as she is on the beach, the neighbor boys come by. Martha is curious to see Tate, who is closest to her in age, but the fourteen-year-old neighbor, Jimmy, pays her the most attention. He singles her out specifically and brings her back to the house to show her a movie he is working on. It is an abstract piece named The World Is Not What You Think It Is, and it is actually quite good. He says that he needs help filming the last two segments, called Death and Love. They spend more time together, and at a beachside barbecue later that week he holds her hand. They go to a house that is rarely occupied, and he films her as she shares her thoughts about death. While he is filming, she starts talking about Olive and shares all of her thoughts about her. Jimmy is pleased and asks to finish the segment the next day at the same place. This segment is called Love , and he steals a kiss from Martha before revealing that he had bet all of his brothers that he could kiss her and get it on tape. Devastated, Martha runs back home and spends the next few days feeling embarrassed...

(The entire section is 1,048 words.)