Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling is the second in a series and — full disclosure — I haven't read the first: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. But I loved Momentous Events (I'm going to shorten the title, from here on out, to save time) and there were only a couple minor confusion factors, once I got into it.

Aven is starting high school and her friend Connor has moved away. It's hard enough dealing with the change of schools and all the new people but there's an extra complication for Aven: she's armless. In the first book, she moved from Kansas to a Western amusement park in Arizona. Now, her buddy Connor's absence has left her with a single friend at the new school, Zion. When a good-looking football player takes an interest in Aven, Zion warns her that he's bad news. But, Aven is friendly and she likes the attention. When things turn out badly, the experience causes Aven to lose trust and retreat from people who genuinely care for her. Who can she rely on? Who is just being nice because she has no arms or pretending to like her? Aven is a positive thinker and self-reliant, but even with her terrific attitude, the humiliation of how she's treated by people at her new school gets her down. Can she learn to trust, again, and even find love?

Highly recommended - I adored this book. Aven is a great character with realistic challenges and a terrific sense of humor. Momentous Events is entertaining and upbeat with valuable lessons and terrific characters.

I had a tiny bit of trouble with reading the books out of order, although never enough to slow me down for long and it just had to do with characters who were introduced in the first book. It took me a while to realize that Joe and Josephine were one and the same, for example, and to figure out the relationship between Joe and Aven (Josephine, aka "Joe", is Aven's grandmother). There should be no problem if you read the two in order, but at most the book could have used an introductory sentence or two to clarify who various characters were.

Momentous Events still stands alone fine, otherwise. What's important to focus on is Aven, her closest friends, and the challenges that she faces. It's easy to get behind Aven because she's so likable and interesting. I kept imagining myself in her shoes. She is tremendously adaptable — playing the guitar, eating, and doing just about everything you can imagine doing with your hands with her feet, instead. Aven is used to being stared at by curious people but it's still uncomfortable. And, yet, she is such a happy, positive little clam. You can't help but love her. I wish there were more books that portrayed people with unique challenges as just humans like anyone else, the way Momentous Events does. Reading about a character like Aven is a fantastic way to learn about what it's like to live with a disability.

I received a copy of Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus from Sterling Children's Books for review and it is by far one of the best children's books I've read, this year. My thanks to Sterling! Momentous Events would work equally well for middle grade or high school readers, in my humble opinion. Aven was in middle school in the previous book. Which, ugh, I so want to read. This book-buying ban already sucks.

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