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Elvis & Olive

Review

Elvis & Olive

First-time author Stephanie Watson seems to know a thing or two about what it’s like to be 10 ½ in the suburbs. You ride your bike around the block at breakneck speeds. You form secret clubs with your friends. You love spying on your neighbors. But what you don’t fully understand is the idea that some things --- especially secrets about other people --- are better left hidden. And that’s exactly what the two protagonists learn in EVLIS & OLIVE --- the hard way.

On the first day of summer, Natalie Wallis is incredibly bored. She misses school already and can’t fathom spending two months sitting around playing with her younger brother. But when Annie Beckett, the tomboyish girl down the road, introduces herself and suggests they form a covert operation in order to spy on everyone in the neighborhood, Natalie has a sneaky suspicion that her summer won’t be so bad after all --- especially when they give themselves code names: Elvis & Olive.

As the days fly by, Elvis (Annie) and Olive (Natalie) uncover bizarre facts about the other families who live on their street. When they discover something incredibly juicy --- like the fact that 50-year-old Sergeant Robert Dewey is building a paper-mâché hot air balloon in his basement, or that snooty 14-year-old Trina George is stealing jewelry by carrying it out of the store in her milkshake --- they write it down on a notecard and post it on the wall of their clubhouse, a musty old crawl space underneath the front porch of Annie’s house. Before long, the walls are plastered with secrets (both true and embellished), and the girls begin to think that nothing could be more fun than what they’re doing --- until everything takes a turn for the worse.

When Annie mistakenly spills a secret that Natalie has been desperate to keep regarding a certain crush, and Natalie retaliates by blabbering the harsh truth about Annie’s past, the girls’ friendship seems tarnished for good. Then, when the neighbors find out about what the two have been up to, it’s all Natalie can do to get out of bed --- especially because she’s grounded. Thankfully, Annie and Natalie eventually realize the error of their ways and learn a valuable lesson about respecting people’s privacy and telling the truth.

Although there are a few stock characters in ELVIS & OLIVE (Natalie’s prissy, Barbie-like mom and Annie’s uncle’s trashy girlfriend, Charla), both Annie and Natalie are flavorfully drawn preteens. While none too complicated, the moral is believably hard-won, and readers will get a kick out of the girls’ Harriet the Spy-esque adventures.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on June 1, 2010

Elvis & Olive
by Stephanie Watson

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2010
  • Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0545031842
  • ISBN-13: 9780545031844