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Insignificant events in the life of a cactus
2017
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Publishers Weekly Review
Thirteen-year-old Aven Green, the heroine of Bowling's sensitive and funny novel, was born without arms due to a rare genetic condition. When her adoptive parents take jobs at an Arizona theme park, Aven leaves behind her comfortable social life, starting over with new peers and teachers to stare at her. After days of self-consciously eating her lunches in a bathroom stall at school (she eats with her feet), Aven opens up to two students: Connor, who has Tourette's syndrome, and Zion, who is teased for being overweight. Bowling, the author of three self-published YA novels, lets readers see Aven as a full, complex teenager-even while those around her have trouble doing so-and gives her a sharp sense of humor, including a penchant for inventing gruesome stories about how she lost her arms. Bowling's novel demonstrates how negotiating others' discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. A major revelation that leads to a somewhat-too-tidy ending is a minor blemish in an otherwise openhearted, empathic book. Ages 8-12. Agent: Shannon Hassan, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Aven Green has always loved her life in Kansas-hanging out with Emily and Kayla, her best friends since kindergarten; planning pranks; and playing on the school soccer team. Though Aven was born without arms, she has never let her "lack of armage," as she calls it, deter her from doing anything she sets her mind to. But when her father gets a job as the manager of Stagecoach Pass, a rundown Western theme park out in Arizona, the family's move, right after Aven has started eighth grade, presents her toughest challenge yet. Having to deal with the many stares and questions of new schoolmates, Aven sorely misses her old life back in Kansas. However, her unflinchingly optimistic spirit, accompanied by her infectious and indomitable sense of humor, keeps her looking for the silver linings in her new life in Arizona, such as making friends with the cute but prickly Connor (who has Tourette's syndrome) or enjoying the ability to wear flats all year-round. But the most fascinating thing is the unusual mystery at the heart of Stagecoach Pass: the disappearing tarantulas, a missing photograph, and a secret necklace. Aven is determined to get to the bottom of the secret. She is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned. The tale of Stagecoach Pass is just as compelling as the story of Aven, and the setting, like the many colorful characters who people this novel, is so vivid and quirky that it's practically cinematic. VERDICT Charming and memorable. An excellent choice for middle grade collections and classrooms.-Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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