Review: My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It – Jowi Schmitz

Title: My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It
Author: Jowi Schmitz
Publication date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Lemniscaat USA
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-935954-11-8
Length: 178 pages
Genre:  Middle grade fiction

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How do you cope with the loss of your mother, while your father is jolted as well? With wit, courage, humor and improvising.

Olivia is ten years old. The major problem in her life is that her mother died. The second major problem is that her father doesn’t really know what to do …

Olivia and her father live on a small boat in the garden of a barbershop. Temporarily, says her dad. But how long is temporarily? And how do you get away from a boat in a garden with a father who doesn’t know what to do, without a mother, but with lots of memories of how life was before?

If you’ve been following my blog and my reviews for a while then you might know that I really enjoy middle grade and young adult novels dealing with loss and recovery. I don’t know why – I guess I just like emotional stories in general. This is how I stumbled upon My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It and that is why I was so eager to start reading it. I had a feeling that Jowi Schmitz’s novel was going to be (sorry for the cliché here) an emotional roller-coaster and I was right. My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It gripped me from the very first word and managed to reduce me to tears many times throughout the story.

Children’s books written from a young kid’s perspective can and do go horribly wrong many times. I’ve read several YA and middle grade stories where youngsters were supposed to be the narrators – while in reality, all I could think about when I was reading them was that 13 year olds do not talk or think like this, for goodness’ sake. As opposed to this, Schmitz’s ability to tell a story from a 10 year old girl’s point of view is just spot on.

It was very easy for me to connect to Olivia, a ten year old girl from Friesland who has to cope with the loss of her mother and look after her father at the same time. Even though I can’t even imagine going through the things Olivia had to face in the novel, I could literally feel her confusion and anger throughout the story. Jowi Schmitz’s depiction of Olivia and her childish father makes it really easy for readers to emotionally connect to this little girl. A girl who has just lost her mum, who has no friends whatsoever, is bullied at school, lives in poverty and on top of that, has to look after her dad, who has no clue how to go on living.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the fact that the author keeps jumping back and forth in time during the first half of the story – something that made me a little bit confused at times. Schmitz wants to give us some insight into Olivia’s past and tell us what happened to her mum (which is inevitable for the plot), nevertheless I had a hard time separating present from past when I started reading the book.

On the whole, I adored My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It. Olivia’s charming personality will no doubt grow on you and her attempts to find a friend and move on will make you smile and cry at the same time. It’s a captivating read which I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes emotional but optimistic stories.




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