Here’s a nice young adult read for teens who, more than anything, want a normal family with normal parents and normal relationships.
Hannah Sampson is a high school junior who’s in a hurry to escape her family and their blue-collar town of North Prospect, Connecticut. Nothing can keep her from wanting to leave. Her quirky parents are borderline hoarders. Her mother fills scrapbooks with pictures and packs them away in the basement. Her father can’t pass up a bargain on dented cans from the supermarket and has loaded them up on their basement shelves.
If that isn’t enough, things have changed with her fourteen-year-old brother, Ryan. And little brother Ben barely speaks, preferring instead to communicate with sound effects. What else is there to do but study hard and find a college that’s far away from this group? The months pass slowly and a vacation to Disney World brings everything to a head when Hannah’s parents reveal a family secret.
I liked this story, written from Hannah’s point of view, because it gives a pretty good look into family dynamics. What seems like a weird family turns out to be similar to the way many families communicate, and don’t communicate, with each other.
I think Walsh is best at describing the sibling dynamic, which can be both combative and affectionate. Hannah and Ryan are both nice to Ben and they share that protective nature. And the three band together in defiance of their parents, particularly in Disney World. She also touches on how kids have to break the family rules in order to gain independence, particularly with Ben at the water park. I also think Walsh does a good job showing how Hannah’s parents react to Ryan and Hannah as they assert themselves.
Some readers may be frustrated with Hannah’s opinions, which are strong and intolerant, but I think that shows how kids can exaggerate their points of view to deal with their frustration. And once Hannah understands her family better, we grow to understand Hannah.
All-in-all, this is a fast, enjoyable read, with a serious message that’s delivered in light humor.
Dented Cans is Heather Walsh’s first book. Be sure to check out her second book, The Drake Equation.
And click here for an interview with Heather Walsh.
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