Octavia Boone's Big Questions about Life, the Universe and Everything

Overview

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.

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,...

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Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything

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Overview

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.

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?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Questions of theology, science, and how to live responsibly in community confront seventh-grader Octavia in Rupp's (Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living) unsettling, thought-provoking, and sensitive exploration of the intersections of faith, work, and family. When Octavia's mother, a lifelong "seeker," abandons her law practice to join a fundamentalist Christian sect, Octavia contends with rival interpretations of religion offered by her various smalltown Vermont neighbors and the prescriptive rules of the Sunday school she's forced to attend. Parallel science fairs highlight conflicting worldviews, offering moments of irony, such as when a female Christian student employs charts and graphs to demonstrate women's unscientific nature; humor, when experiments go awry; and frustration at the limits of scientific inquiry, exemplified by Octavia's inconclusive results. Octavia's synesthetic sensibilities (she sees letters with color and texture), help her integrate divergent viewpoints, but cannot erase the crushing grief that comes as beloved holiday traditions unravel in her broken home or her bewilderment at her parents' inexplicable choices. This hopeful novel highlights the resilience of children and the courage of those who seek truth in a complicated world. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Octavia Boone's life changes drastically the year she is a seventh grader at her small school in Vermont. Life seems ordinary with her mother Ray, an environmental lawyer, and her father Boone, an out-of-work artist. Octavia is always searching for answers to questions about life in outer space, the Big Bang theory, and the existence of God. Her biggest problem is determining a subject for the annual science fair. But that changes when her mother discovers the Fellowship of the Redeemer, a fundamentalist church that meets at an abandoned motel. Ray has always flitted from church to church and Octavia never took her seriously, but this time is different. Ray quits her job and moves into the compound expecting Octavia to join her. In seemingly no time, Octavia's happy home has been broken. After many frustrating experiences, including her inability to prove or disprove the power of prayer as her Science Fair entry, Octavia comes to terms with change. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Seventh-grader Octavia Boone is having a tumultuous and life-changing year. Her mother, who has always been flighty and in search of fulfillment, becomes enamored with a fundamentalist religious group. She soon begins a radical transformation that ultimately results in her moving in with fellow Redeemers a few towns over. Octavia's problems are exacerbated by her father, who constantly quotes Henry David Thoreau. He is angry at his wife and rather selfish to begin with. While Octavia is respectful of religion, she does not like the Redeemers and questions why this is all happening. She decides that if she is able to use her science-fair project to prove that there is no god, her mother will come home and everything will go back to normal. Rupp does exhibit a bias against some aspects of this religious group and also shows that adults are not always right, do not always know what is best, and can be quite flawed. The sensory condition synesthesia is used as a device, but seems a bit unnecessary in a story that already has so many complicating elements. However, there are great lessons to be learned about judging others and being torn between opposing views, and the author does show how hard it can be to be a kid sometimes.—Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
Rupp tackles some heavy material in this provocative middle-grade novel. Once Octavia's mother, Ray, joins the Fellowship of the Redeemer church, their formerly happy household quickly unwinds. Ray had always encouraged Octavia to be an individual, question authority and think for herself. But Ray's total acceptance of the church's doctrine, which is the antithesis of her former beliefs, leaves Octavia and her dad confused. Then, just before Christmas, a holiday the church does not celebrate, Ray leaves to live with other Redeemer disciples. Narrator Octavia revisits her seventh-grade year to find a reason for Ray's turnabout, revealing a young girl struggling to make sense of things she has little control over. Her chatty, opinionated, often funny account makes manifest her precociousness, establishing the believability of her insightful-beyond-her-years arguments against organized religion—which make vigorous discussion fodder. The year that changed her life leaves Octavia with some big questions: "What makes a more-or-less normal person with a more-or-less normal life suddenly go off the deep end about God?" Readers may well find themselves wondering the same. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763644918
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 839,108
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Rupp is the author of SARAH SIMPSON'S RULES FOR LIVING, JOURNEY TO THE BLUE MOON, THE DRAGON OF LONELY ISLAND and THE RETURN OF THE DRAGON. She lives in Swanton, Vermont.

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