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Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart
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Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen

by Donna Gephart

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Olivia Bean loves trivia and watches Jeopardy! every night which charmed me a lot. She lives with her mother and her mother's boyfriend who is a librarian (awesome points right there)and sometimes speaks to her father on the phone. Now her father is a terrible father and this is apparent to everyone except Olivia very early on. I guess this irritated me but I think kids want to see the best in their parents. Olivia is an adorable heroine and Donna Gephart really gets the awkwardness of being twelve.

( )
1 vote matamgirl | Apr 3, 2013 |
I can totally relate to Olivia, because I definitely watched a lot of Jeopardy! in my childhood years, although I was not nearly as good at it as she is. Unfortunately, I definitely suffer from brain freeze (and not the kind you get from drinking something cold). I really liked the basic storyline, focusing around her quest to win Kids Jeopardy!, and to improve her life along the way. Olivia's a little tightly-wound, but I suppose that's what I expected from a girl dealing with a new stepdad, the neglect of her biological father, and the slight bullying of her classmates.

Her stepdad is a librarian! He's not quiet like so many fictional librarians are; actually, he sings really loud a lot, which is, from my personal experience, very true of the best librarians. Unfortunately, this loud singing can sometimes interrupt jeopardy. Rude!

Olivia totally hero-worships her dad, which is rather unfortunate, considering how obvious it is that he is awful. The whole reason Olivia cannot remember geography is because of his programming. He was no good at it, so he told her she wasn't either, probably because he didn't want a kid to beat him at Jeopardy!, which he probably views as his thing. Way to hold your kid back!

Every chapter title is phrased in the form of a question, like any proper Jeopardy!-themed story should be. Of course, the book isn't only about Jeopardy!; it also focuses on divorce, friendship, and the awkwardness of middle school flirting. Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is a cute story, full of fun facts. Now I kind of wish I were smart enough to try out for Jeopardy!! ( )
1 vote A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Twelve-year-old Olivia Bean lives and breathes trivia and never misses an episode of Jeopardy!. She used to watch it every night with her father, but since her parents' divorce and his move from Philadelphia to California (with Olivia's best friend's mother and her daughter, Olivia's erstwhile best friend forever Nikki), Olivia usually watches the game show by herself (and often knows the answers better than some of the contestants). When Olivia realizes that testing for Jeopardy! Kids Week is about to commence, she is determined to try out. She desperately wants to win one of the coveted 15 spots on the show, not only because she is eager to be on Jeopardy!, to show off her trivia skills, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because the studio where Jeopardy! is filmed is located in California (close to where her father now lives), and she hopes that she will be able to visit with her father (and that he will make time for her).

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is a sweet and engaging story, full of humour, trivia, and fun (I especially love Livi's little brother Charlie and his tendency to talk about gross trivia facts at the dinner table), but also teeming with emotional poignancy, sadness, the problems faced by many children of divorce (missing the absent parent, hero-worshipping the absent parent even when faced with and by ample proof that he/she is not worthy of being thus idolised). Throughout the story, Olivia clearly adores her father, but it is painfully obvious that he is most definitely not a model parent (that he is entirely self-centred, a compulsive gambler who basically only cares for and about himself, and while he might at times remember Olivia and her little brother Charlie, more often than not he forgets to phone, he forgets birthdays and Christmases, and only thinks about and of his children when and if it suits him).

Some reviewers have stated they find it somewhat problematic that Olivia takes so long (almost the entire book, it seems) to fully appreciate what her father is really like (that he is basically a self-indulgent jerk) and that she is too immature for her twelve years of age. However, I think it is always easier to be on the outside looking in, and while I do think that Livi is a bit emotionally immature and definitely blinkered with regard to her father, I do think that Donna Gephart has actually portrayed this very realistically (as it is often hardest to admit that those nearest and dearest to us have or can have major faults, majorly negative character traits). That Livi and Charlie's father basically feels only scant commitment to his children is a realistically painful learning process for Livi and Charlie, one that will take time.

I also believe that Donna Gephart has realistically portrayed Livi's negative reactions towards Neil, her mother's new live-in boyfriend. While Neil is portrayed as the exact opposite to Livi's father (caring, helpful, loving), it takes Olivia a bit of time to realise not only how different Neil is from her own father, but that he is a much more dependable, positive and loving person than the former (the reader might be a bit angry at Olivia's attitudes towards Neil, but again, these attitudes are realistic, even if one does find them rather immature, even bordering on being nasty). For me, it is more than understandable that to Olivia, who desperately misses her father (and is likely still harbouring some remote hope of him returning one day to his family), Neil is regarded as an interloper, as an invader (and just like with her realisation that her father is not the loving, dependable parent she had imagined, or rather had wanted to imagine, it takes time for Livi to appreciate just how special a person Neil is, and how different, in a positive way, he is from her father).

As much as I generally enjoyed Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, I do have a few minor issues with some aspects of the story. While I generally enjoyed reading about Tucker and Olivia's reemerging friendship (and Olivia realising that she has made a major mountain out of a molehill with regard to the "unfortunate hula hoop incident" and that Tucker has not been "mean" to her at all, that their present problems are due to a huge misunderstanding mostly on her part), I think it would have been more poignant if it had been Neil, not Tucker, who helped Olivia with her geography block (considering that most of Livi's problems with geography stem from the fact that her father had always told her that geography was not "her thing" it would have been a great literary device for the author to have used Neil, her mother's new boyfriend, and the opposite of Olivia's and Charlie's father as the key to unlocking Livi's abilities in and knowledge of geography). I also think that while Donna Gephart has, for the most part, created rich and nuanced characters (characters who are loveable, but who also have negative traits, who can and do make mistakes), the two main adult male characters (Olivia's father and Neil) are, unfortunately, rather stock-like and flat (Livi's father, as someone entirely negative, as someone who can do no right, and Neil, as someone entirely positive, as someone who can do no wrong). A bit more nuance (some even mildy positive character traits for Livi's father, and some mistakes, some minor negative character traits for Neil) would have made both the father and Neil more realistic (they kind of seem like allegories to an extent, while most of the other characters featured, even little Charlie, possess both laudable and not so laudable characteristics, making not only good decisions, but also making their share of mistakes). All in all though, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is a sweet coming of age novel, a novel that can be enjoyed by both older children and teenagers (and even if one is not a trivia buff, there is much to love and cherish in this delightful and emotionally satisfying story). ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
Olivia Bean is dealing with some massive changes in her life. Her father has left her family to marry her best friend's mother and in the process moved his new family across the country to California. Tucker, the boy next door, is always making fun of her, except when he's being nice to her which is very confusing. Neil, her mother's boyfriend, has moved in and is definitely NOT her dad. One of the only constants in Olivia's life is Jeopardy. Every weeknight at 7 she's there in front of the TV and she knows tons of the answers. When Tucker calls to tell her the test for Jeopardy's Kids Week Tournament is in just a few weeks, Olivia is sure if she can just make it on the show, everything will be better. After all Jeopardy just so happens to film in California, right near where her dad and (former) best friend live now! All she has to do is pass the test - if only she weren't such a dunce in geography! Can Olivia become one of only 15 kids to make it to the Jeopardy Kids Week TV shows? And will this really solve Olivia's problems? If you like trivia or reading about complicated friendships and family relationships, get to know Olivia Bean.

As a Jeopardy nerd, I found the portions about the testing and show tryouts to be fascinating. I also thought Gephart did a great job of showing how much Olivia loved her dad while making it clear to the reader that he is not a good parent. Gephart did such a good job that I kept looking up from my book to angrily tell my fiance how bad Olivia's dad was - I found the undermining of her confidence regarding geography particularly annoyed me because it was so subtle and damaging. The handling of Olivia's mom losing her job was also excellently done, making this a good choice for those looking for realistic fiction reflecting the current recession. I really liked the book as a whole and would recommend it to upper grade school and even middle school kids. ( )
1 vote JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
After overcoming a number of obstacles, especially in the subject of geography, Olivia is on her way to Hollywood to appear on Jeopardy! and, she hopes, to reunite with her father who left the family two years ago. ( )
  prkcs | Nov 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385740522, Hardcover)

  Olivia Bean knows trivia. She watches Jeopardy! every night and usually beats at least one of the contestants. If she were better at geography, she would try out for the show’s kids’ week. Not only could she win bundles of money, she’d get to go to the taping in California, where her dad, who left two years ago and who Olivia misses like crazy, lives with his new family.
 
One day Olivia’s friend-turned-nemesis, Tucker, offers to help her bulk up her geography knowledge. Before Olivia knows it, she’s getting help from all sorts of unexpected sources: her almost-stepdad, superannoying Neil; her genius little brother, Charlie; even her stressed-out mom. Soon she has breezed through the audition rounds and is headed for Hollywood! But will the one person she wants to impress more than anyone else show up to support her?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:22:09 -0400)

After overcoming a number of obstacles, especially in the subject of geography, Olivia is on her way to Hollywood to appear on Jeopardy! and, she hopes, to reunite with her father who left the family two years ago.

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