Avenging the Owl is another one of those books that made me realize that I really need to read more middle grade fiction. I mean, I read a middle grade novel every now and again, and it’s a really nice change from all the young adult books I pick up, but this? This book is wonderful. This is the kind of book that would have helped get me hooked on reading when I was younger (if I hadn’t already been born with a book obsession), and it’s something that even now, as an adult, I absolutely loved.
Our main character, a seventh grade boy, Solo Hahn (yes, that’s his real name – his mother loved Han Solo from Star Wars, and since their last name was Hahn, she named him Solo Hahn), isn’t really having the best time. His family picked up and moved from Redondo Beach, California, where he spent a lot of his time surfing and hanging out with his friends. When they told him they were moving for his father’s health (you find out why later on in the book, and I’m not going to spoil it), they also told him to sell all of his non-essential belongings (such as his DVDs, T.V., etc.) because they were going to be living a minimalist lifestyle, and those things had no place. Crushed over leaving his friends and everything he knew behind, he does what they ask. However, when Solo finds a kitten before they leave, he manages to convince his parents to let him take it with him.
Upon arriving at his new home – a rusty trailer that offers no semblance of his former life, whatsoever, he realizes things are going to be a lot different. After an owl kills his kitten and in trying to get revenge on the owl and save the kitten (again, you find out what happens later on in the book), things don’t turn out as planned – Solo ends up getting a whole lot of community service, and the label of “troubled kid” – which the bullies in town constantly remind him of.
So now Solo is stuck working at the raptor center (rather than ending up at a juvenile detention center) – caring for birds and owls, even though he absolutely hates them. There he meets some of the other volunteers – and after a while, he starts to learn that maybe working here isn’t so bad after all.
Along with the volunteers from the raptor center, he finds friendship in the boy who lives next door to him – Eric, a boy who is a year older and has Down Syndrome. While he doesn’t want to be friends with him at first (he misses his old friends and just wants them back), eventually the two begin spending a lot of time together.
I really liked Eric’s character – he was fun and honestly pretty kick-ass. He knew martial arts and let’s just say the bullies in the town would be leaving him alone after a particular run in with them at the arcade one day. It was so nice to see the friendship between Eric and Solo develop – and you could tell it was one that would last a long time.
Solo’s main character wasn’t all that likable at first…he was bitter and angry, but given all he’d been through, it’s understandable. But the way his character develops throughout the book is incredible. The way he changes and starts to see the important things in life is really a treat to the reader.
Avenging the Owl is definitely a story about forgiveness and learning to see the bright side of things, even if there doesn’t seem to be any sunshine left. It’s an incredible book, and it’s something that I could see everyone enjoying – not just those who enjoy middle grade. That being said, this is definitely a book I will be sharing with my daughters as they get older and start reading middle grade books – it sends a beautiful message across and has a lot of important themes – such as forgiveness, acceptance, and learning to appreciate what you have.