Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen — Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen
Donna Gephart
J Fiction
Published March 13th 2012 by Random House Children’s Books
Reviewer: Michelle Halpern (YRI)

Olivia LOVES trivia, and she wants to be on Jeopardy some day. I am still waiting for my chance to get on Wheel of Fortune, so I could relate to her on that level. I enjoyed reading about Olivia’s journey from hopeful to contestant, and especially liked that the book was divided into sections named after the rounds in the TV show (Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy, Final Jeopardy). What bothered me most, which probably will not bother children, is that the chapters are titled with questions but that not all of the questions fit the Jeopardy format. For example, “Is No News Bad News?” may fit the chapter, but it would never be the correct response on the show.

Another thing that I noticed but children probably wouldn’t pick up on is the fact that Olivia thinks the world of her father even while talking about terrible things he has done. At the same time, she dislikes her stepfather, even while describing things he does that proves he cares about Olivia, her brother, and their mother. As an adult, I could tell that Olivia would see by the end that her stepfather is wonderful and her father is not so great. Many kids wouldn’t realize that. For me the whole thing detracted from the story until Olivia started to realize her stepfather is not so bad, and then it was easier to keep going.

The story was a little slow going at first, then the pace picked up with Olivia’s excitement. I was disappointed that her actual experience on Jeopardy was no more than 10 pages. After all the build-up of the previous 260 pages, I expected more time to be spent on the show. Even her audition game of Jeopardy is only about 4 pages.

Overall, I think it’s a cute book that young Jeopardy fans will enjoy because it gives a behind-the-scenes look at what happens from the online test through the actual show. Adults would be better off reading Brainiac by Ken Jennings, whose record-breaking 75-game streak made history.

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