Title: The Benefits of Being an Octopus
Author: Ann Braden
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: September 4, 2018
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.
This is a powerful story for young people.
Many important themes were explored in this story, such as poverty and abuse. Zoey takes care of her siblings while her mom works. She learns that her mother is in an abusive relationship, and Zoey tries to find a way out of it. Even though she is a child, she knows she can and must do something to help her mother.
Her friend Fuchsia faces similar problems. Her mother’s boyfriend threatens Fuchsia if she reports her mother to family services. Fuchsia feels trapped, as if she cannot tell her mother because she won’t believe her, so she is ready to accept her future. Zoey has to show her that she can stand up for herself.
Zoey is a very strong character. She stands up for many people in this book, including her siblings, her mother, and her friends. Though some parts were difficult to read about, these are real situations that happen to kids all the time. I really enjoyed this book.
What to read next:
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Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Have you read The Benefits of Being an Octopus? What did you think of it?