Published: September 17 2019
Format: Hardback (Personal copy)
Tags: Middle-Grade/Juvenile Lit, Realistic, Contemporary, Disability Representation, Diverse, High School, Growing Up, Love, PoC, School Life
| Synopsis From Publisher |
Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school . . . with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?
| Book Review |
– Content –
Disability Rep Done Right: One of the things I love about this book, and this series, is that it’s such a great example of how disabilities can be represented in an accurate, positive way. Aven is a typical tween, experiencing high school and all its drama, and she just so happens she doesn’t have arms. I love that Bowling shows that Aven’s life is pretty typical, with just a different quirk in that she has to go about things differently. In this book, though, I like that she addresses the problems with being different when it comes to cruel teenagers. This book seemed to take a bit of a darker tone because of this, but I think it’s an important aspect to show and I really felt for Aven as I was reading.
Realistic High School Problems: This book represents the very beginning of high school, and all the newness that comes with it. I love that Bowling chose to focus on this aspect in time because it allows young readers a window into what could be their own high school experience. I think it’s also an accurate, accessible representation of things that young teens struggle with in high school, like the newness of having crushes and relationships, the difficulties of making new friends when you start a new school, being separated from your old friends as you go to different schools…All of these things, I think offer young readers a place to see themselves in literature.
A good sequel!: There always is a difficulty in writing sequels, I think, because if the first book is good, you risk not matching that and if it’s not as good, it can be a major let down. But I feel like Bowling has done an excellent job of continuing Aven’s story. This sequel is a really solid book and can stand on its own. I think it’s a perfect match to the first because it tackles different problems that Aven faces, not just repeating the same story in a new way. I also enjoy the new characters we get to meet in this book, as they add more to the story. Overall, I think that I enjoyed this book just as much as the first, which is great for a sequel book!
– Literary Value-
The new characters: I think Bowling is great at writing characters, and this book introduced us to some new ones! I really enjoyed Trilby and her obsession with funny-named punk-rock bands like Llama Parade and Screaming Ferret. I thought she fit right in with the funky group of characters that live in this universe.
All the teenage angst: Look, I will admit that Aven got on my nerves a little bit in this book because of how angsty she was, but it was with good reason! She was tricked by another teen and in a really horrible way that totally destroys her confidence in herself. I think Bowling does a good job of representing, accurately, teen angst and emotional drama in this book. I think any tween/teen reading this book will definitely sympathize with and relate to Aven’s emotional drama. It’s pretty well done, in my opinion.
Accessible writing style: One of the things I enjoy most about Bowling is her ease of writing style. Aven’s voice is clear and believable. I think the writing in this book flows well and I found myself reading the book at a good pace. I enjoy Bowling’s story and I think I’m able to do so because her writing so so accessible and easy to read.
– Entertainment Factor –
I definitely was entertained by this book! For me, going into it, I was worried about Bowling matching up to the level of the first book, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I can say with confidence that this book did not disappoint! I enjoyed it just as much as the original, perhaps because Bowling invited us into a whole new environment, with Aven having to navigate high school. I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions reading how Aven deals with bullies and making new friends and trying to stay in touch with old ones. Plus, there was even a bit of mystery/intrigue in here as well. This book is definitely a great follow up to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.
– Cover Art –
I like the cover of this book. It keeps the theme of the first without copying it and it just looks so bright and welcoming! I am a big cactus fan, so I appreciate getting to see any cacti on book covers. Plus, you can’t see it from the cover, but this book has a great cover under the main cover sleeve, as well, with little “buttons” of different punk bands on it and doodles. Very cool! Overall, I love the warm colors and the cacti and the text – which is both bold and fun! It’s a very eye-catching cover and I think that’s a very important aspect to consider.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
I had a lot of fun reading this book! It was definitely a ride of emotions and I felt like I was experiencing all the angst and struggle alongside Aven. I really enjoyed seeing her have to acclimatize to a new environment – high school. I likes being able to see her rebuild her confidence and fight for her friends. It was also really cool to see her make new friends and to grow more as a person. I’m so glad this series exists, because it’s one of the only ones I know that features a girl with a disability. I learn so much about how Aven’s world is compared to mine. Books like this are so important in promoting empathy and repeatability as well as to put a spotlight on accessibility. We live in a world built for able-bodied people, so it’s nice to see a children’s author putting a story out there to get kids thinking about what it might be like for someone who isn’t able-bodied.
Would I recommend this book?
I would definitely recommend this book! If you loved the first book, then this is an excellent sequel. Plus, it’s got a bit more drama going on in the form of high school, so if you know of any tweens/teens entering high school and worrying about what their experience might be like, this is a great book to give them, because it provides an accessible, relatable look at how to deal with bullies, how to make friends, and how to be yourself.