Book Reviews

Book Review: The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Author: Ann Braden

Genre: Middle Grade; Realistic Fiction

Pagecount: 256

My Rating: 2.5/5 ☆

I’d want my 12 year old self to read this. My 12 year old self would appreciate this book a lot more.

A Gentle Touch | Medium

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.

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. octpus 2

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?

“Sometimes the walls of the hole we’re in are too close for us to see anything else.”

A Gentle Touch | Medium

The Benefits of Being an Octopus was one of my scrolling-through-my-timeline picks. I obviously found the title pretty quirky and the synopsis was startlingly dark which made me want to give this a shot.

I’m not the target audience for this book which is one of the reasons why it took me around a month and a half to finish this moderately small novel. The language is too simple for my liking as well. octopus

Zoey is a pretty strong character who has to go through a number of hardships everyday. I did really admire her strength but I didn’t understand her point of view on gun laws which is a pretty significant part of the book – the author fails here. I, however, loved the octopus and debate analogies used every now and then; learnt a lot about both!

“When you’re living in a pond of algae, you turn green. It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you to stop.”

The younger siblings were extremely annoying and a big reason why I didn’t finish this book in one sitting. They wouldn’t stop crying about everything and Zoey’s life was basically 63.45% about making sure her siblings weren’t crying, which is pretty sad but tedious to read about. What deserved more attention was the last four to five chapters, they felt pretty rushed. Also, the other kids were made to seem shallow and rich and that is quite one dimensional and cliche.

Poverty has been highlighted well but I’ve read better books regarding the same issues. One such book that I can think about is Fighting Back by Cathy MacPhail.


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