I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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.
My thoughts: You know how sometimes a great book comes along that on putting alongside all the review copies you have read up to that point, seems, most incredibly, even greater. Last year, it may have been The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap that did that for me. This year, it is Dented Cans. It would be rather unfair and would count as cheating to go back and slightly reduce the ratings of all the books I've reviewed (I only rate review copies, the idea of giving books stars bothers me, but that's another issue.) So, instead I'm going to give this book six stars (out of five... yes, that was a joke.) Dented Cans has left me in complete awe.
I could easily identify with Hannah. For one, she has a habit of going off on tangents and tends to ramble. That may be a problem for some readers, but she seemed quite sensible to me. Hannah seems much older than she is, too thoughtful, always worrying, responsible, while still being quirky and ready, even at the most uncanniest of times, for a laugh! Most writers tend to make kids seem more childish than they ought to be at that age, but Heather hasn't made that mistake with Hannah. She adds a sort of dry humour, which adds a dash of bright colour to the otherwise darker story.
All the characters in this book might as well be real people with real problems, just trying to find their place in this world. The family that Heather has created is so fleshed out, Ryan and Hannah, Mom and Dad and even the ones that are only referred. The book really made me think and the thoughts revolved around in my mind for a long time. You could say the book is about family secrets, or the fact that there is a lot more to people than you see on the outside. Every person has some story hidden deep under, that makes them into what they are, makes them do the things they do and we may not always be quite able to understand it. But we ought to respect it.
It seemed like such an odd book, with the strange title and the cover that gives it the appearance of a non-fiction about dented cans. You don't have any girls in huge gowns with fancy hair and painted faces on the cover, though it seems to be so 'in' these days. The book, quite like its cover, is like nothing I've already come across. If you're one of those readers, who steer clear of self-published books, this little novel might just change your mind. Grab your copy right now!