Friday, June 14, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and Momentous Events in the life of a Cactus

        Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by [Bowling, Dusti]         

Insignificant Events:
Aven Green was born without arms, although she enjoys making up stories about losing them to alligators or other equally terrifying accidents. Her parents have encouraged her to be independent all her life and she has done well in school and on the soccer team with her friends. But now her parents have decided to take over the management of a rundown theme park called Stagecoach Pass. Suddenly, Aven has to leave the classmates that have known her since kindergarten and move to Arizona. There are so many adjustments to make with the new home, new climate, and then there is the awful fate of being the new kid at school - the new kid without arms. So...yeah.

Thankfully Aven has her awesome parents, a couple of the adults who work at the park, and she slowly begins to make friends at school. Her friends also have issues they are dealing with like weight and Tourette's. Together they support each other, argue with each other, and generally act like 13-year-olds. While Aven is figuring out how she fits into life around Stagecoach Pass, she is also trying to uncover a mystery at the park. Who was Aven Cavanaugh and why does the man at the ice cream shop keep confusing the two Avens?

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. Aven really does have awesome parents who are determined that she will "grow up to be a totally self-sufficient, problem-solving expert." She accepts other people for who they are and expects the same in return. The title refers to a saguaro cactus that grows near the park. When she learns it is almost 200 years old, Aven decides that with all it has seen in that time, what happens in her life must seem pretty insignificant. Imagine having a cactus help you put your life into perspective!

I had heard about the book, but didn't read it until a supervisor from our district office gave me a copy. Then I saw an ARC of the sequel at ALA Midwinter and picked up a copy. After I read it, I returned the favor and sent it to him.  :-)

Momentous Events:
In this sequel, Aven faces the scary prospect of starting high school without her best friend Connor, although she will still have their friend Zion there to share their freshman year. Even a new friend she met through soccer is going to a different school this year. But despite being targeted for bullying by a complete jerk, Aven and Zion manage to be themselves. Along the way they both get a crush on someone (not each other), attend a school dance, and face other milestones of teenage life.

This book does a good job of showing how being bullied can suck all the joy and energy out of your life. Aven ponders how she is dealing with the situation and decides, "High school was stealing everything away from me - my courage, my confidence, and my determination." Of course it isn't high school that is doing those things, but the bullying. She lets it undermine her happiness until the bully turns on a friend, and then she becomes her usual problem-solving self. (Can't tell you how that works out, it would spoil the ending.)

You need to read these books. And read them in order - this is not a series that order doesn't matter. Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy stories of friendship and facing the hurdles life puts in your way. 

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