The Benefits of Being and Octopus by Braden
One of Edutopia's "25 Essential Middle School Reads from the Last Decade," NPR Best Book of 2018, Bank Street List for Best Children's Books of 2019, Named to the Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher List, Maine's Student Book Award List, Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Award List, Rhode Island Middle School Book Award 2020 List, 2020 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Nominee, 2021 South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2020-2021 Truman Award (Missouri) Nominee, Middle School Virginia Readers’ Choice Titles for 2020–2021, Charlie May Simon Award 2020–2021 List, 2021–2022 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee, and 2023 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award nominee.
Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do.
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.
At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them.
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.
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?
This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.