Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold


Title: Mosquitoland
Author: David Arnold
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Publisher: Viking Children's
Hardcover, 336 Pages
Published March 2015
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Summary: After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
This book was equal parts hilarious, crazy, and emotional, and I liked it. I wasn't sure what to expect, and after a few chapters into the book I was definitely more than a little weirded out and confused. "Mim" Malone is clearly a girl with some neurological problems, so the book gets a bit hard to follow at times because her narration gets fuzzy and you can't really tell what really happened and what didn't. (*SPOILER:* I was actually under the impression that the bus crash was one of her weird little imagination stints and that it didn't really happen at first, so I was really confused when I found out that it did.)

Anyway, the story follows Mim, a young girl whose entire life is falling apart. Her parents are divorced, her dad is marrying the waitress from Denny's, and nothing feels right for Mim. She feels totally fine, but is being told that she's going crazy - that word being the one thing it takes for her father to want to shove pills down her throat and cart her away, apparently.

I thought that this book was going to be just about a young girl on a journey to get to where she wants to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that Mosquitoland tackled mental health, too - another important aspect of life that is becoming more and more normal to talk about. Mim's adventures were entertaining and hilarious, and she definitely met a bunch of interesting (and some very weird and some very dangerous) people along the way. Reading the entire story from her point of view was also really entertaining, because she has a bunch of random outbursts and sarcastic commentary that kept making me want to turn the page so I could see what other outlandish things she said.

The one thing that I didn't really like about the book wasn't anything that was technically wrong with it - I just didn't enjoy it all that much. Like I mentioned earlier, I know that Mim has some problems mentally and that the narration is obviously going to be affected by that because her thought process isn't exactly the same. But at some points the book just felt so weird to me - I couldn't really differentiate between what she was imaging and what she was really experiencing. I had to go back and reread a couple of times. (Some big spoilers ahead so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want the book ruined for you!) I also didn't really like that all of the important information was kept from the reader until the very end of the book. I know that as an author you want to keep some plot twist stuff until the very end, but there were some parts of the ending that knowing in advance would've helped me understand the story more. For example, all of Mim's letters to Isabel. She writes to Isabel from virtually the beginning of the book, and the reader has to trek through 330 pages of these letters and things without even knowing who Isabel is. There are some brief references to her aunt, but that isn't who it ends up being. Maybe knowing who Mim was writing to from the very beginning would have made me less confused.

I loved meeting all of the characters in this book - especially the trio that Mim forms halfway through her journey. (But I won't tell you who they are - read the book and find out yourself!) Watching her open up about her life and form such a close bond with such unique and caring people warmed my heart after knowing the hardship she'd been facing up until she met them. Definitely a little bit of laughs and some happy tears there. :-)

All in all, Mosquitoland was still a good story that I enjoyed. It reminded me a little bit of The Wild Girls (especially with all of the War Paint scenes), which brought a smile to my face because that was one of my favorite books growing up (and still is) and it's also one of the very few books that I've ever gone back and reread several times over. This was a story full of laughs, love, emotions and learning to leap over any hurdle that life may try to throw your way. The touch of humor and sarcasm in Mim's outward personality gives the story a whole new, lively feel, and that's what made it an enjoyable read for me. I'll definitely be reading more of David Arnold's work in the future!


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