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My Progress:


12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:


28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge


23 / 50 books. 46% done!

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48 / 50 books. 96% done!

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27 / 40 books. 68% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

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64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Mormon Mentions: Dusti Bowling

If you haven't got a clue what a Mormon Mention is, allow me to explain: When I see a reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known more commonly as the Mormons) in a book which was not written by a member of the church, I post it here. With commentary from Yours Truly. I'm no theologian, but I try to explain doctrinal issues as well as debunk myths and clear up misconceptions. Speaking of, I should probably make this crystal clear:  I do not have horns. I do not belong to a cult. My dad only has one wife. As does my husband. And, yes, people really have asked me all of those questions. Just FYI: mainstream Mormons haven't practiced polygamy for more than 120 years.

Everybody got that? Great. Let's move on ...



In Dust by Dusti Bowling, the main character and her friends have this conversation about a video one of them watched:

"What was it about?" I asked.
"Mormyridae."
Nan and I looked at each other. "Mormon what?" she asked.
"Not Mormon." Dillon huffed. "Mormyridae."
I repeated the word. "Mormyridae. Mormyridae. How do you spell it?"
"M-O-R-M-Y-R-I-D-A-E."
"Good spelling word," I said. 
"That's not why I thought you'd be interested."
"Well, what is it?"
"They're fish that produce electricity," he explained. "Also called elephant fish."

(Pages 177-78)

There's not much to say about this passage. It just made me chuckle!

Bowling's Newest Gut-Wrenching, But Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although Avalyn has severe asthma, the exuberant 12-year-old doesn't let it get in her way. Moving to an Arizona mountain town with clear, dry air has helped immensely. She suffers, but not nearly as much as she once did. She focuses, instead, on hanging out with her band of misfit friends, reading her beloved X-men comics, and ignoring the bullies at school as best she can. When a new boy moves to town, she senses he might be a perfect fit for her friend group of nerdy outcasts. The problem is that Adam constantly rebuffs her attempts. He insists on being a loner—a secretive, moody, intriguing loner. Avalyn longs to crack his shell. Underneath the tough exterior, she sees glimpses of a cool kid who wants to belong as much as she does.

Avalyn's never told anyone, but she's got a superpower of her own. She's always been able to sense people's emotions and Adam's are...intense. Whenever he gets angry or upset, his feelings stir up whirling dust storms, the kind that fill her lungs with grit, making it difficult for her to catch a breath. What is the cause of Adam's distress? Why is he so withdrawn? The more Avalyn learns about Adam, the more concerned she grows. What is he hiding and how can she help her new potential friend if she can't even breathe around him?

Dusti Bowling is one of my auto-read authors for middle-grade books. Her novels are warm, engaging, hopeful, and heart-full. Dust, her newest, is no exception. It's her most poignant, dealing as it does with some heavy subjects. Still, it's a beautiful, uplifting read about the importance of standing up for yourself and others.

Avalyn is a sympathetic character, of course. In addition to dealing with a debilitating health condition and other allergies that make her feel like she can never fit in, she's also the target of a group of school bullies that are unrelenting in their torture of her. The wholesome, supportive friendship that exists between her and her two best friends (also bullied outcasts) is the best part of the story. I also like that Avalyn has parents who are compassionate and involved. You also can't help but sympathize with poor Adam in his awful situation. The deep pain that all these kids feel from being ostracized and mocked is palpable, hopefully so much so that it influences young readers to make an effort to be kinder and more inclusive, both at school and in their broader communities.

Bowling makes a strong point about not just standing up to bullying and abuse, but also telling a trusted adult when something harmful is happening. It's only when Avalyn does both that she's able to create even a small amount of change. (Content warning: While Adam's situation is never described in detail, it's hinted at pretty heavily and there's one gut-wrenching scene where it is exposed in a way that, while not exactly graphic, is difficult. Hopefully, most kids won't understand enough to fill in the gaps since they, thankfully, have never been in such situations, but those who do get what's going on only too well may find it traumatizing. Caution should be used when recommending Dust to these readers.) 


Magical realism can be a hard sell for me, but I have to say it worked well in Dust. Even if that element isn't wholly convincing in the story, it adds to the tale by giving it more power and depth. It also brings something unique to a familiar plot.

While Dust isn't my favorite of Bowling's books (that would be Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus), I do think it's her best. The story is heart-wrenching, powerful, and important. It's one that affected me viscerally (especially the scene mentioned above), staying in my thoughts even now, months after I read it. I highly recommend all of Bowling's novels, but this one is especially affecting.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other middle grade novels by Dusti Bowling)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and difficult subject matter (physical/sexual abuse of a child, bullying, etc.)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

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Reading

<i>Reading</i>
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

Listening

<i>Listening</i>
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain



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