Publication Date: 11/2/13
Source: Received from author for 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.
Being a teen is hard enough. Being a teen in a dysfunctional family is even harder. Hannah Sampson is that teen. In this interesting look at a family in quiet chaos. Hannah, the narrator, is by all (her) account, normal. The rest of her family, with the exception of her hyper, yet apathetic brother Ryan, are not.
Hannah's dad collects cans of food. Dented Cans. Every can is a bargain to Hannah's dad; a treasure. Her stores them, loves them. He is obsessed with bargains, and watches every penny he and his family spend. Hannah's mom is less than chatty about her obsession, but is just as anxious. Her obsession is family photos, and putting them in album. But instead of making them a treasured part of the family, she hides the albums, refusing to let the family look through them. And then there's Ben, the youngest sibling who barely speaks but uses sound effects to communicate, doesn't interact much. In denial over Ben's issues, the parents refuse to let Ben be tested for any sort of disability. Hannah's parents are not bad people, and though they're strange, they're not bad parents, either.
So this, in a nutshell, is the Sampson family. Fed up with the dysfunction, Hannah is simply biding her time until she can escape to university, far away.
The family is pushed to their limits when they head on a trip to Disney World. I actually expected the trip to be a larger portion of the story, but most of it was the setup of the characters and their day-to-day lives. Family trips are tricky at best, so when the Sampson family embarks on theirs, it's only a matter of time until they crack. I was surprised by the big family secret, and it actually made sense in regards to some of the issues Hannah's mom and dad have.
Dented Cans is one of those books in which it feels like not a lot happens. There is the big secret, but it's dealt with so calmly that it felt a bit anti-climatic. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, it rang true for the characters. At the end, I feel like the family almost ended exactly where they began. All of their problems are not solved, but there is understanding. Dented Cans should be taken for what it is: a look at a troubled family
"But I didn't care anymore if my family was slightly nuts. Let them be. Soon enough I'd be out on my own anyway (don't look back). Besides, our town was full of families that looked normal when you saw them in church or at the bank, but I suspected that if you peered into their windows, what you'd see would be far from normal. Everyone was screwed up, it was just how good you were at faking it. ~ebook, 32%
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