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

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

Rebecca Rupp, Candlewick, $15.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4491-8

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.)