"A heartbreaking, beautifully written book about finding one’s voice." -- School Library Journal, Starred Review

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

“This is a compassionate look at poverty, hard choices, and defending one’s right to be treated humanely. A very fine first novel, written with a deft hand.”

– Newbery Medal Winner Karen Hesse

SIGNED COPIES are available for on-line purchase from the fabulous Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, VT!


Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do.

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.


“A hopeful and compassionate story about the small, brave steps a girl takes to transform from feeling unworthy to claiming her own potential and power. The Benefits of Being an Octopus will open minds, expand hearts, and change lives.”

––Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, author of the NY Times bestselling Book Scavenger series

“You will care so fiercely about Zoey–the octopus-loving, truth-telling young heroine that you’ll want to wrap all eight of your own arms around her.”

– Anne Nesbet, Author of California Book Award Winner, Cloud and Wallfish 


“Braden navigates the complexities of choice and power and the meaning of courage. And how sometimes together, we can find our voice and our strength.”

 – Elly Swartz, Author of Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie


The Benefits of Being an Octopus is a beautiful, layered look at the courage it takes to stand up to and stand up for the people you love–including yourself. Braden’s story captivated me and carried me along, leaving me changed for the better.

–Elaine Vickers, author of Like Magic and Paper Chains


“Poignant and funny. An octopus might be a clever creature, but it can’t hold a candle (or eight) to Braden’s masterfully constructed prose.”

– K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest