(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Book Reviews, Humor, Middle Grades, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Teen/YA
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Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

The “momentous event” of transitioning to high school presents Aven Green, the armless girl-wonder, with new challenges.

*Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Sterling Books, 2019, 306 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 12-15

Just when Aven Green has found her place in the middle-school milieu, here comes high school, with triple the population and one-third less the moral support. That is, her best friend Connor has moved across town to be closer to his dad, meaning he’s district-ed out of the school Aven and Zion will be attending. Zion is a good guy, but their friendship now feels like a tricycle with a wheel missing. Changes have come at home, too: Stagecoach Pass has a newer, sharper image with new vendors, like homeschooled Trilby and her family. But Henry, who runs the ice-cream shop, is showing signs of dementia and Spaghetti, beloved petting-zoo llama, seems to be fading fast. Aven, now 14, is starting to feel the stir of hormones, especially when cute (and popular) Joshua Baker starts paying attention to her. But her hopes take an abrupt nose-dive after one cruel prank. “High school was stealing everything away from me—my courage, my confidence, and my determination. And I’d only barely started.”

If we know Aven, we know she will rebound, but the path to victory is going to be rough—even rougher than during the “insignificant events” of middle school. The downs are downer here, the reactions more intense, but that’s what life is like during its rough transitions. Certain circumstances, especially regarding family history, appear to wrap up too neatly—as in the previous installment of Aven’s life, the real dramatic tension resides in her taking another giant step toward maturity, wobbling, almost falling, and finding her balance again. Sometimes you have to step out on faith: Don’t try. Just believe. In time, faith will reveal things unseen.

Considerations:

  • As Aven is of an age to be experiencing romantic feelings, one serious kiss is not out of place in the narrative.
  • Aven’s homeschooling friend Trilby isn’t your typical Christian homeschooler, but a free spirit with fluctuating hair color and a love of punk rock. Lyrics from imaginary punk-rock bands begin each chapter.

Overall rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

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