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Have you ever imagined how life would be without arms? How would you eat, work, or do some basic things in life? Aven Green, the protagonist in Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, is one such girl who was born armless. She didn’t lose them in a daring circus act or a fight with alligators; it’s merely in her genetics.

Transitioning to high school is a significant milestone for any teenager, let alone undertake the endeavor as an armless person! At the start of the book, Aven is her usual self; she is confident and fearless. Her best friend, Conner, had recently moved to a nearby town, which would mean she would have to start high school without him. Aven still might have her other best friend, Zion, but it’s not the same without Connor. While Aven and Zion go to the mall to find a costume for Comic Con, Aven sees one of her classmates. After they talk for a while, Aven’s classmate humiliates her. She feels like a total failure! The bad encounter left Aven drowning; she struggles with a lack of confidence and self-appreciation. Her friends try supporting her, but it is to no avail. In her puddle of disappointment, she keeps pushing her friends away, like ripples emanating from a single point.

One character that helps Aven find her confidence is Zion’s older brother, Lando. He shows Aven that she is more important than she thinks, and all she has to do is appreciate herself. Self-appreciation and belief in oneself are very important for one to have. Aven shows that if you lack these qualities, coping with disabilities or life, in general, will be nothing short of a disappointment. Lando shares some of his amazing drawings with Aven; they are full of color and represent Aven as a superhero. After looking at Lando’s moving illustrations, Aven starts to realize that she is more significant than she thinks.

Outside of her school life, Aven is a horse-back rider. When her confidence slips away, so does her motivation to ride a horse. Aven was supposed to be learning how to jump, with a horse-show around the corner. Being unsure of her capabilities, she kept delaying the chances. Finally, once her confidence is back, Aven is ready to take the plunge! Sadly, it does not go that well for Aven, and she ends up in a hospital. Despite the fall, Aven quickly recoups herself and is ready to jump again for the horse show.

“And then I was in the air again. But I wasn’t afraid of falling” is a testament to Aven’s gain of confidence and belief in herself; she is ready to take on anything and is fearless once again.

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus is an excellent and moving read! The beautifully crafted realistic fiction is connectable to readers of all ages. The hilarious dialogue exchange cracked me up! If you like books with some humor, real-life connectivity, and important morals, Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus is the right book for you!

After I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down! I love how Bowling incorporates so many plot twists and small cliffhangers throughout the storyline. The book’s neatly weaved theme can teach kids that confidence, self-appreciation, and belief in oneself are essential in whatever they do, no matter who breaks it!

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Sterling Children's Book, 2019. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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