The Benefits of Being an Octopus, by Ann Braden
The debut author, Ann Braden, is a middle school teacher in Vermont. Frustrated that there are books about urban youth and well off suburban teens, but there were so few books about struggling teens, she decided to write her own book about teens in Vermont. The result is a fantastic multilayered book! Zoey is a seventh grader, living in a trailer with her mother who works nights at a pizza place, her boyfriend, Lenny (and his father) and Zoey’s younger brother and sister. Zoey know her life would be easier if she were an octopus with eight arms who could get everything done with them. In her real life, she can’t get her homework done at night because she is too busy taking care of her brother and sister while her mother is at work. The trailer that her family lives in is Lenny’s and she and her mother try to make everything right so that Lenny is happy with them. When a teacher gets Zoey on the after school debate team,
she begins to think a bit more about what is going on around her and what she can do to change it for the better.
The whole atmosphere of this book is the real Vermont, with friction between the well-to-do middle class and the working poor and how neighbors can help each other. All the characters are very real and well done in a story with real tension. Terrific book!