Aven Green, the 13-year-old narrator of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling (Union Square Kids, 2017), is a truly lovable character. To her surprise, her father takes a job to run an amusement park in Arizona, uprooting her from her school and friends in Kansas City, where she has lived her entire life. Now she’ll have to start at a new school where no one knows her. She wants to run and hide in the bathroom during lunch and avoid everyone. It will be a strange new world in Arizona.
Oh, and Aven doesn’t have any arms.
Aven may be disabled, but her huge personality makes up for it. Her parents have nurtured her and taught her to keep trying for anything she wants to do, and Aven has become quite capable of living with her feet as her main tool for doing just about anything. That doesn’t change the fact that kids in Aven’s new school stare at her and avoid her. When Aven flees to the library during lunch, she meets more “misfits,” including Connor, a self-conscious boy with Tourette’s Syndrome, and Zion, a boy who is uncomfortable with his weight. Aven’s own encouragement to these friends bounces back to help her become a stronger person.
But this book has more subplots and interest that weaves together all this character development. Aven is a go-getter when it comes to making the family amusement park a success. Her ideas prompt her parents to make positive changes. As Aven explores the park, she is determined to find a mystery to solve. While there isn’t quite a mystery, the intrigue that she creates and her simply hilarious approach to life, friendship, and her friends makes Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus a delightful read.
A saguaro cactus can live up to 200-years, so when Aven finds one on a hill on the property, she reflects on this. All of these events that feel so big for her own life are really an insignificant time in terms of a cactus life. I love this insightful concept throughout the book, and the concept of this “brief moment” seems to roll back to Aven’s own story. I love Aven and can’t wait to see what else she can do.