Monday, November 19, 2018

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus - Dusti Bowling

Summary: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms. (summary and image from

My Review:  This book was delightful.  Aven is such a fun and spunky character, and she has a hilarious sense of humor and personality.  I loved, loved, loved her voice, and found myself laughing out loud at several of the things she said--she was just so honest and felt so real.

Here's the thing I really loved about this book--it wasn't about her disability.  Yeah, it came up often, but that wasn't the main drive of the story, which is always awesome (meaning, it's great to have characters with a disability, but they can just be regular characters too).  She explains how she does things without arms, gets uncomfortable when people stare at her too long, and often spends lunch in the bathroom to hide, but those are just things that happen to her, and yeah, it's hard.  But in moving to live at a fading amusement park, Aven works to uncover a mystery that lies hidden under the dust of the desert, and it's this that drives her along, as well as helping her newfound friends and working to better the park.  Her personality is so spunky and full of good humor which aids in how she lives her life.

It was also great to have a story with more than one character with a disability.  Aven befriends a boy with Tourette's.  This is a misunderstood condition, and I loved the care and effort Bowling put into this character.  You can tell she did her research into these disabilities, reaching out to those who have them, and treated them with respect.  They weren't just a ploy for the plot, they became real people. 

I love one of the themes of the book--we're all different.  Aven even brings this up near the end in a guide she writes on how to live without arms.  "You think you're the only one out there who feels different?  What about that kid sitting alone in the library or out on the sidewalk?"  Just by being herself, she reaches out to those who are overlooked, who feel like they don't belong.  She talks about how people sometimes just don't know how to be around those who are different.  I feel like this book showed how you can be.  And how to reach out to those who are different.  I think this is important for children, because they can be both so honest and so cruel.  But then again so can adults.  People need to understand their actions and cruel words have consequences.  And that's why it's important we have books like this, because they help you learn to empathize, and people who are so different at first become less and less so as you share their story, and in turn, teach you how to be a better person. 

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: the characters often talk about how they feel alienated (Connor, the boy with Tourette's specifically, but also Aven, and another friend, Zion, who is overweight), and the emotion is pretty real when you see how much it affects them.

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