The Benefits of Being an Octopus Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-09-08 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 72 user ratings

"If Zoey were more like an octopus, she would have eight strong arms to help her take care of everything she has to juggle. If she were more like an octopus, she would be able to camouflage herself and go unnoticed at school. If she were more like an octopus, Zoey would be able to better protect her family and herself.

• Pro: Zoey owned my heart. Her emotions leapt off the page. I felt her frustration, exhaustion, and fears. She was weighed down with responsibilities and constant worry. Despite all that, her strength and her spirit, along with her "get it done" attitude still shone through.

• Pro: The relationship between Zoey and her siblings was very sweet. Did I think she should have practically been the primary caregiver for them? No, but she loved them, would sacrifice her own needs for them, and would do anything to protect them.

• Pro: Watching Zoey become more empowered was quite satisfying. She found her inner strength and her voice, which allowed her to speak up herself and for those who couldn't.

• Pro: I am not even going to pretend I knew a lot of octopuses before I read this book, but I think Zoey has convinced me as to what incredibly magnificent creatures they are. I loved all the octopus facts scattered throughout the book, and the way they were incorporated into the story. Utterly fascinating.

• Pro: Debate is quite an interesting activity, and I like seeing it featured in books. I loved when Zoey started using her debate techniques outside of debate club. Debate allowed Zoey to find her confidence and her voice, while also facilitating Zoey's examination of many of the issues affecting her life.

• Pro: There are a lot of issues touched upon in this book at some point: homelessness, addiction, foster care, gun control, mental abuse, but the one that stuck me the hardest was the examination of poverty. Zoey's situation broke my heart, and when I learned how grateful she was for what she had, my heart ached even more.

Overall: A sometimes sad, but ultimately hopeful portrait of young woman forced to grow up too quickly in the face of poverty and abuse, but who was able to find the strength, courage, and confidence to turn her situation around.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

" said.

"4.5 on the blog.

I loved this book and what it had to say and show. There is a big misconception out there that most poor people are lazy and don't work, or don't work hard enough. This story shows how people get caught up in the circle of just getting by which pivots on greedy people with the means to buy property charging too much for rentals that are barely livable and people who have to live in them because they don't get paid a livable wage for doing hard work other people stick their noses up at; like emptying the soiled diaper bins at the nursing home and cleaning them out. Doing that every day, but never having any extra money, so you have to wear worn out clothes and you can't pay for dentist so your teeth go bad and that pretty much kills your chances to get a better job. I hope everyone reads this book, regardless of age, because most Haves dont seem to get what most Have-Nots go through to survive, and how substandard living conditions and scraping by affect how people act and react with one another.

The story also shows how just one adult understanding and believing in a child can change the trajectory of that child's life; and how when women come together to help each other out and lift each other up, instead of seeing each other as rivals, they can lay a foundation to build a better life for themselves and their children. Wonderful messages to be giving in a Middle Grade book.

I myself see this more as Young Adult. It's written the way YA (teen) books used to be written before all the YA publishing money-wheel spinning started. The characters are in seventh grade. It's nice to see a book written about teens still being appropriate, content wise, for most of the 7-11 readership.

The one star subtraction comes from the head-scratching inclusion of a thread about hunting bobcats. At one point I thought it was going to lead to the subject of some people using hunting as a way to put food on the table, but that was never discussed. Then I thought it was going to be a twist and have them find a bobcat, after spending months tracking them, and shoot it with a camera instead of a gun, to say if you are hunting for "sport" and the thrill of the hunt why not a framed photo instead of a stuffed dead trophy. However, a conversation about whether or not they were in season came into play. There were too many confusing inclusions about gun ownership, and frankly the whole gun ownership question wasn't needed in this story. A debate subject about universal healthcare, or a living wage, would have fit in better for making the final debate point.

I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
" said.

" This just . . . I mean . . . everyone needs to read it. Everyone.Don't question me. I'm a professional. " said.

" An excellent middle grades novel! Braden provides a window into the life of 7th grade Zoey, a girl doing her best to hold her working poor family together. I see so many possibilities for this book: an empathy building read, an opportunity to examine systemic oppression, and a thoughtful alternative to the teacher as savior trope. Bonus points for being set in VT and written by a Vermonter. " said.

"4.5 Stars


I’ve had a few days to gather my thoughts, and I’m still having a hard time formulating them.

I started reading this book at a party after finishing JAKE AND LILY and I’ll be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that interested at first. I honestly thought about DNFing it until I looked at it, sitting there on my shelf, and thought, ‘Let’s give it another shot’.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m so glad I did.

I’m not quite so sure what it is I really loved about it. Maybe it was Zoey’s character. I really loved her perseverance when it came to something she was passionate about. Maybe it was the writing. I really, really liked Ann Braden’s writing style. Maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that I was picturing literally everyone like characters from THIS IS US.

Whatever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing middle-grade novel.
" said.

"I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a scary, brave, complicated, important book. It's a book about getting out of abusive relationships, about the gun control debate, about things not being black-and-white, about bullying, about speaking up, about a girl with the weight of the world on her soldiers, and yes, about octopuses, too.

That's one of the things about people on that beautiful tropical island: they can't see who's floating about in the ocean around them. Or maybe they can and they just choose not to look. I don't know.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus is about a 13-year-old girl Zoey who lives with her mother and her three small siblings in her mother's boyfriend's trailer. There is a lot of focus on surviving and supporting your family while poor, including the power being cut off, applying for benefits, not being able to wash your clothes, and the other kids at school laughing at you. It's about the bitter feeling when it seems like the other kids are allowed to have Valentine's Day gifts as their biggest problem, but you aren't.

This book was really difficult to read at times, with many parent figures and adults who have failed these children. Some of them were trying their best and ended up doing better, while others were toxic and people you needed to get away from.

I remember thinking several times that these kids (both Zoey and some of her classmates) sound older than they are, that their debate club sounds like something we'd have at college, but then I realised that I have the wrong view on 13-year-olds and they are more mature than I'd think. I'm glad that they are, but it's sad to feel like they have to be. There were so many things in this book that in an ideal world kids Zoey's age shouldn't have to deal with.

Overall, this was a difficult that very important book that deals with many different issues that some real kids have to deal with every day.

Also, shout out to teachers who notice when something is wrong and go out of their way to help.
" said.

"This book gives a desperately needed voice to the youth in our communities who face the hardships of poverty. It is so difficult for those not living in poverty to understand the impact on those who do. This book is a tender, compassionate, and beautiful call to empathy.

The thing I was most unprepared for as a teacher was the emotional weight that comes with caring about young people who live in poverty. I have students who are homeless, who miss school to care for younger siblings, who have struggled in the foster care system, who self-harm, who do not have enough to eat. They are more than statistics. They have names and I see them nearly every day. I hope that they know that I love them. After reading this book, I want to give them all temporary octopus tattoos and a copy of this book. I don't think that their peers really recognize the severity of their hardships, but I want them to know that I see them.

I see you. I love you. Your story is worth telling. I will listen.
" said.

"This has Newbery written all over it, imo. Issues explored carefully, not simplistically. Controversies explored without straw men. Adults who are real, who are flawed but trying (though not always very hard), who were young once themselves. An admission that there's no such thing as HEA but an inspiration to keep on working towards one.

And lots and lots of potential for classroom and family discussion, for enrichment activities, and obviously for bibliotherapy.

Also, despite being fairly intense, it wasn't too hard to read. There are plenty of scraps of hope, joy, and even humor. I actually enjoyed reading it.

And the thing is, I host a Newbery discussion group. And many of the books we read there are not enjoyable....
" said.

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