Review: The Benefits of Being An Octopus by Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus is a debut novel that deals with the realities of poverty, gun and domestic violence – all through the eyes of a seventh grade girl who’s more used to caring for her siblings than she is for herself.

The Benefits of Being An Octopus CoverSome 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.


I received an eARC of The Benefits of Being An Octopus from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus has some really great representation, but it makes it an incredibly hard book to read.  Braden did a great job at making the reader feel the hopelessness that Zoey felt at the beginning of the novel, and slowly lightening it up as their family pulled their heads from underwater.

This novel needs trigger warnings for domestic abuse (mental and emotional), gaslighting, gun violence, a shooting outside of a school, bullying, severe anxiety, mentions of asthma attacks, and neglectful parents.

While there were a lot of great aspects to this novel, everything moved so quickly that it was hard for the impact of everything going on to really hit. It honestly ties in with the metaphor of the octopus that Zoey kept talking about. I felt like I really needed 8 hands to get a handle on everything happening.

However, Braden showed some real skill in the writing of this novel. I hope that this book will help other readers find the strength to get out of these situations as they recognize them. You can pick up a copy of The Benefits of Being an Octopus for yourself from Amazon or Indiebound.


Title: The Benefits of Being An Octopus

Author: Ann Braden

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Length: 256 Pages

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: ★★★ / Three stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Representation: Single parent character, large family, poverty, domestic abuse survivors,


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