Thursday, January 21, 2021

Upbeat MG Novel More About Capability Than Disability


(Image from Amazon)

Aven Green was born with no arms.  The 12-year-old is used to getting stares when she's in unfamiliar places, but she's lived in the same town for so long that no one at school or in her community gives her a second glance anymore.  Her classmates see her use her feet to do all kinds of ordinary tasks—eat, turn pages in her textbooks, write, even play the guitar.  No big deal.  They know she can do pretty much anything they can do, even without arms.  

When her dad announces that he's taken a new job as the manager of an amusement park in Arizona, Aven is not thrilled.  She doesn't want to move to the desert, leave her friends behind, and start over at a new school.  Doing so is just as awful as she thinks it will be.  Stagecoach Pass is a grungy, derelict old place; her family's new apartment is teensy; her classmates gape at her torso and make rude comments; and Aven's taken to hiding out in the school bathroom to avoid their stares.  Things start to improve when she meets two boys who feel just as outcast as Aven—Connor has Tourette Syndrome and Zion is overweight.  With her friends by her side, she sets out to prove anew that challenges or no, they can do anything, even solve the mystery of Stagecoach Pass's missing owners!

It may not sound like it, but Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling is a funny, upbeat book.  Really!  Our heroine, who likes to make up fantastical stories about how she lost her arms and play practical jokes on gullible, unsuspecting folks, is downright hilarious.  Although she's well aware of the limitations imposed on her because of her disability, she's determined not to let them stand in her way.  Which isn't to say she doesn't sometimes feel humiliated and angry or engage in self-pity.  She does, but she also shows that she's just as capable, determined, and clever as anyone else.  While the novel is humorous, it also offers a poignant, intimate portrayal of what it's like for a child to be different.  The story is empathy-inducing and moving without being saccharine or preachy.  It's easy to see where the book's plot is going, but even still, the tale is fun and engaging.  For all these reasons and more, I very much enjoyed this appealing, entertaining novel.  

A note:  I listened to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus on audio.  The book is read by Karissa Vacker, whose performance I didn't love.  She tended toward a Valley Girl/mean girl accent when voicing Aven and other young females, while employing a mopey/dopey tone for Aven's male pals.  Thus, the girls all sounded like snots while the boys just sounded dumb.  I'm an audiobook novice, so perhaps I'm way too picky about narrators, but Vacker drove me a little nuts.  I got used to her after awhile, but I came close to abandoning the audio version because her voice grated on my ears, especially at first.  Just sayin'.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

4 comments:

  1. This is a favorite of mine, and one of the main reasons was how upbeat this story was. Aven's incredible attitude and the focus on friendship was a winning combination for me

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  2. This sounds like a great MG book! It's so wonderful to have people from all walks of life as main characters for young people to read about and identify with.

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  3. This sounds like a good read and one that I think a lot of kids could relate too even without a visible disability. Moving is tough particularly if you feel like you're different.

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  4. A great review, this sounds like it would be an ideal addition to classroom libraries

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