Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Dented Cans by Heather Walsh

Title: Dented Cans
Author: Heather Walsh
Series: N/A
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: November 2, 2012
ASIN: B00A12XW52
Format: eCopy
Genre: YA, urban fiction, contemporary
Source: received from author for an honest review

A family secret is revealed during an ill-fated—yet hilarious—trip to Disney World.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Sampson knows her family is not what you would call normal. Her father compulsively buys dented cans and has a particular fondness for cans without labels, which are extremely discounted because their contents are a mystery. Her mother takes countless pictures of her family and then glues them down into the pages of her scrapbooks, but does not allow anyone to look at them. Ryan, Hannah’s mischievous fourteen-year-old brother, is headed straight for the remedial track at the local community college, if he’s lucky. Ben, her eight-year-old brother, is a walking sound effects machine, who prefers to communicate with noises rather than words. While Hannah is focused on escaping her working-class Connecticut suburb, she also finds herself being tugged back home as she worries about her brother Ben.

Hannah’s parents inflict one last family vacation on the Sampson children, a trip that goes comically wrong almost from the get-go. Hannah is forced to confront her family’s past in Disney World, of all places, when an emotional argument prompts her parents to disclose a secret they have been keeping from the children for sixteen years. Ultimately, she must decide whether to leave her hometown and not look back, or to focus on helping her family.
Dented Cans is the story of Hannah, a girl desperately trying to escape her small town and dysfunctional family. But in all of their struggles for a semblance of normalcy in different ways, they have created this warring tension between them all.

Hannah was, like any other teenager, wants to be normal. But the state of her family just doesn't allow her to be that, from their financial status to little quirks they each have. Honestly, I find her situation extremely familiar, and something I could somewhat sympathize with, but not to an extent that I'd feel exactly like her. As well, having grown up in that way, Hannah developed this worldview that reminded me quite a bit of Hazel Grace Lancaster, the beloved protagonist from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: honest with a wisdom far beyond their years. She was strong, determined, and had a goal. Unfortunately, one major flaw in her character was that she was just hard to get close to, and while cynicism is never something that I particularly dislike in a character, it made Hannah distant and a little bit cold to me.

However, I feel that this story is very heart-touching in the way that it could teach younger readers quite a few different life lessons, which is something I admire in Walsh's writing. Though the story's based around a single moral, there are many others hidden within different points in the plot. But by putting so many different morals all over the place, I feel as if it was taking away from the central meaning of the book.

Final verdict? Neat book, but could use a bit of work. With an ending that felt like it was shoved into Hannah's arms and told to hold, it did make me think that the pacing could use some work, as well as character development with more showing than telling, but Dented Cans is a wonderful story that I'd recommend to readers of all ages.

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