Author Dusti Bowling is currently the Writer in Residence at Tempe Library. So, of course I had to read her most recent middle-grade novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. I’m so glad I did!
Thirteen-year-old Aven Green was born without arms, but her parents have always encouraged her to be independent and have a can-do attitude. It was no problem in her old school in Kansas where she had many good friends. When her family moves to Arizona, however, she has trouble being accepted. That is until she meets Connor, who has Tourette’s and can relate to being treated as an outsider. Together they investigate the strange events going on at Stagecoach Pass, the has-been theme park where Aven’s parents work.
Sprinkled throughout the text are blog posts Aven writes to keep in touch with her former friends. The posts are funny and poignant, plus reveal the main character’s innermost thoughts and feelings in a way that is organic and not contrived. For example, her list of the twenty worst things about not having arms in Chapter 30 is packed with self-effacing humor and honesty. It encapsulates her frustration at not being able to help her friend in the way she would like.
Aven Green is an amazing character. The way Dusti Bowling describes her life is so sensitive and at the same time so realistic. It’s no wonder that the awards and starred reviews are piling up, including a 2017 middle-grade fiction finalist in my favorite contest, Cybils.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus successfully tackles some pretty prickly topics. It is a wonderful choice for lovers of middle grade fiction of all ages.
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (September 5, 2017)
Looking for more children’s books set in Arizona? See our growing list at Reading Through the States.