The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden | Review

Pages: 260

Genre: realistic fiction, middle grade

Release date: 4. september 2018

Synopsis

“Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do.”

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

My thoughts

Rafting out of five: four stars

I did not realize this was a debut novel, that’s even more impressing. This book says it’s important, and it’s right. It’s about one girl, Zoey’s, experience and daily life, the struggles she goes through as she’s taking care of her siblings, trying to survive school and making tough choices.

This book talks about how some children are forced into adulthood earlier than others with the amount of resposibilities they have. There’s a gap between kids who have a different amount of support at home, like having healthy food prepared for them, help with homework, not having to worry about family’s financial situaiton, that shapes so much what their experiences are like and what amount of stresses and stability they have in other aspects of their life, like school. This book communicates that in a very direct, but appropriate way. It has a language that works both for adults and kids. It shows Zoey experience in hopes that more stories of kids like her will be told, increasing empathy and the discussion with them.

The octopuses (thank you for not forcing me to read octopi over and over it’s not as fun) are a really fun and heartbreaking way to convey Zoey’s emotions and thoughts going through things. I appreciated all the facts, being a nerd, and the method of process it brought her. Something that confused me was reading Zoey’s thoughts and trying to match them with the reflective opinions and conclusions she draws. She noticed things that the other classmates don’t, like Silas stopping talking and why, and has suddenly can debate gun reform from both views. And that’s not major things, but I got this feeling that I never saw the process behind developments like that.

Debates at school is tough when you’re more invested in it personally and sits on more “insider” details than others who are debating for the sake of it, because that’s basically the task. I thought it was relatable the way Zoey’s hands were shaking and she had to find her courage. It was pretty obvious that the author chose the gun reform subject because of own interest, it did not quite match with the rest of the book.

What I was feeling reading this book: sad, but mostly proud, for kids like Zoey and thinking back on other now nearly adults I know raising their siblings and having those invisible struggles

Thank you to the publisher for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exhange of an honest review.

Does this book sound interesting? Btw, what’s your view on guncontrol (i am honestly really curious)?