Title: Dented Cans
Author: Heather Walsh
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: November 2, 2012
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.
This is one of those books where I’m on again, off again. I wanted to love it, I really did, especially after reading The Drake Equation, also by Heather Walsh, but I just couldn’t.
The beginning was great. I thought that the first chapter was a great hook. It really captured my attention and had me itching to find out more. However, as the book went on, it also started to go off rails, for me, and I found it hard to stick with it. The first half of the novel I could live with, for the most part. The MC was witty and sacastic at times, while at other times she complained about life way too much, but it wasn’t bad. I loved the character developement and the details that showed us the little quirks within her family.
Hannah seems like this sarcastic teenager ready to get out of the tiny city she’s been trapped in since birth. I can’t blame her, in all honesty, ’cause that’s what I wanted to do, and I didn’t even live in a small city. I identified with her in that aspect. However, as the novel goes on, her hauty attitude and constant complaints grated on my nerves. She was just so ungrateful for everything her family’s given her. So what if they’re a little weird and argumentative? At one point, she implies that her mom has little to no brain in her head, doubting that her mother had a shred of intelligence. That was just rude beyond reason and absolutely disrespectful. Then, her parents plan this whole trip to Disney World and she acts like the experience was the worst thing that has ever happened to her. I just went to Disney last summer, and I’m 19. I loved it and I also know how much it cost my parents to get us all there. This girl was so focused on herself that she didn’t even care about anything else.While I’m usually okay with pessimistic characters, Hannah was so down in the dumps all the time that reading this book brought me down. It made me angry, and while I like being moved my books, I don’t want to become angrier, than I already am in real life, because of a book.
The one ray of sunshine throughout the novel was Ben. He was the cutest little thing, and Hannah gained a little bit of my respect just by the way she took care of him. She was always including him in games, and making sure he was okay with everything going on. She was also more confident in him than his parents were. I honestly don’t have much to say about it (because I liked him, and I can criticize a lot better than I can praise…), but he was probably the biggest reason that I kept reading the book.
Something else that stuck me at an odd angle, was that this giant secret that’s hinted at in the first chapter and then here and there throughout the book, was totally random. Sure, it explained a fair amount, but it also left me with giant black holes that I couldn’t fill. What happened to him? What was wrong with him? Those were my two biggest questions (if you read the book you’ll know what I mean). She could’ve added those little tibits in at the end and I would’ve been a lot more satisfied. Alas, the end was quite rushed, and not that informative, to be quite honest.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad book, but I definitely wasn’t satisfied with what I got. Well, written, just not amazingly executed.
World Building: 4/5
eBook provided by the auhor in exchange for an honest review.