Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Release date: March 3, 2015
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Viking Children's
Age group: YA
Pages: 352
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange." 
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. 
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, "Mosquitoland" is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

After a start that made me skeptical and a main character that I was not quite sure I could like, I fell deeply in love with David Arnold's debut Mosquitoland with its beautiful language and a set of characters that are so different from each other and yet so meant to be together.

Mosquitoland follows Mim Malone on her journey from Mississippi to Cleveland. After hearing about her mother's mysterious "illness" completely by accident, Mim steals her stepmother's stash of savings and boards a Greyhound bus to Cleveland. Soon enough, she notices that things are not going quite as she planned. She meets eccentric characters like Arlene, a quirky old lady with a mysterious wooden box, a creep in a poncho and Carl, the bus driver. When a freak accident takes place, Mim's plans change - she meets Walt, a boy who reminds her of a friend from her childhood, and a mysterious, handsome fellow Beck. Her traveling partners change and she adds more stops to her itinerary, but her aim remains the same - to get to Cleveland and to reunite with her mother.

Mim is such an interesting character, but rather than falling in love with her instantly, it took me a while to warm up to her. When we are first introduced to her and her personality, I was afraid that Arnold's characterization of Mim would fall short and that she would end up being one-dimensional, just one more character to add to the pool of "manic-pixie-hipster-girls". But as I kept reading, I started to notice the uniqueness of Mim and though I never quite identified with her, I wanted to know more about her, and most importantly, I started to root and care for her.

The novel starts by declaring that Mim is "not okay". And yeah, she's not. She has had a difficult childhood - she has watched her parents go through divorce while struggling with her own mental health. Arnold brilliantly lets the reader in to the mind of this occasionally tough, occasionally extremely sensitive girl that is just trying to figure herself out while fighting with the demons of her past and her present.

Mim can be pretentious and bit of a snob, but due to the honesty and freshness of her voice, these character traits do not come out as fake. I am glad to say that Arnold did not fall into the pit that is the creation of a character that due to her/his pretentiousness comes cliche. Mim might say that music should be listened only on vinyl - due to her voice and the way her personality is introduced to the reader, I actually believed that Mim thinks so rather than just saying it to seem "cool", "different", "alternative" or "hipster."

From the cast of characters that inhabit the pages of Mosquitoland, in addition to Mim the most interesting ones for me were definitely Walt and Beck. Walt has a Down Syndrome, which makes his a character quite different from the others in the book. The way Arnold writes about Walt made my heart burst - his characterization of this curious, happy, gentle boy brings so much into the novel and the role he has in opening up the other characters, mainly Mim and Beck, is incredible. I loved witnessing the way Walt is able to break Mim's often hard exterior - I feel like through Walt, we see the real Mim.

"I read once that the Greek language has four words for the word love, depending on the context. But as I step out of the PT Cruiser and tumble into Walt's perfectly huggable arms, I think the Greeks got it wrong. Because my love for Walt is something new, unnamed, something crazy-wild, youthful, and enthusiastic. And while I don't know what this new love has to offer, I do know what it demands: grateful tears. "
The novel is narrated via letters that Mim writes to her notebook to someone named Isabel and through narration that describes Mim's trip from Mississippi to Cleveland. The trip narrative works as a trigger and inspiration for the letters, through which the reader is introduced to Mim's personal and family history.

There definitely are some weird things going on in this book and at points Mim's trustworthiness as a narrator can be questioned. Due to her history with mental illness and the decisions she makes regarding to her medication, the reader might question whether some of the events Mim describes actually happen or whether they are just a product of her imagination. I would not go as far as to say that Mosquitoland is magical realism, but there definitely were parts in there which brought magical realism to my mind.

Since I don't want to give away too much and/or ruin this unique reading experience for you, I recommend that you pick it up yourself and see what all the well-deserved hype is about. Arnold is a very talented writer and I am beyond excited to see what he comes up with next. Mosquitoland is more indie than for example John Green novels and way less pretentious - if someone compares this to Green, in my opinion, that someone is wrong. Mim is a character I will cherish for the rest of my life - though she is not always the most likable person, she is honest and feels so incredibly real. Can you really ask for more?


  1. I'm glad to see that you really loved this one! I've wanted to pick up a copy of it for a while but I still haven't purchased one. I'll definitely have to buy a copy when I can. Great review!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. I REALLY DID! So good and well written. And incredibly touching.
      You definitely should get a copy for yourself. And when you read it, I want to hear what you thought of it :)
      Thanks for stopping by Krystianna!


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