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Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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Title: Mosquitoland
Author: David Arnold
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: March 3, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: N/A
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.
Mosquitoland is one of those books that I love so deeply that writing any kind of coherent recommendation is near impossible. We all have those books - the ones that we just want to place reverently (or, perhaps shove immediately) into the hands of every reader we know. David Arnold's debut is truly that type of book.

With Mosquitoland, I find myself speaking in declarative, one word sentences. Visceral. Bold. Honest. But it's also more nuanced than one word or an even entire essay can accurately describe. I read a good portion of Mosquitoland aloud while on a road trip with my brother. There were points where I would pause in reading and look over to see my brother shaking his head and, when I questioned his slow head shake, all he could do was shrug, grin, and say "Mim." Because, sometimes, when a character is so real and her journey is so fully realized, you don't need to say anything at all.
“I swear the older I get, the more I value bad examples over good ones. It's a good thing too, because most people are egotistical, neurotic, self-absorbed peons, insistent on wearing near-sighted glasses in a far-sighted world. And it's this exact sort of myopic ignorance that has led to my groundbreaking new theory. I call it Mim's Theorem of Monkey See Monkey Don't, and what it boils down to is this: it is my belief that there are some people whose sole purpose of existence is to show the rest of how not to act.”  - from Mosquitoland
Mim's got some serious angst. She's resentful towards her father and stepmother and feels adrift in a new environment where she's unsure of her place. Mim also struggles with mental illness and that blurry line between illness and normality. As a reader I was often unsure of her reliability, not because she was prone to purposeful deception, but because part of her journey is learning to truly trust herself.
“Home is hard. Harder than Reasons. It's more a storage unit for your life and its collections. It's more than an address, or even the house you grew up in. People say home is where the heart is, but I think maybe home is the heart. Not a place or a time, but an organ, pumping life into my life. There may be more mosquitoes and stepmothers than I imagined, but it's still my heart. My home.”  - from Mosquitoland
Many road trip novels are about leaving home, often to experience something new or with some grand adventure in mind. But Mim's road trip is more complicated. She thinks she's running home, to something she once had and is now missing, to the mother she's been distanced from and away from her father and stepmother. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple. Mim's search for home - that feeling you long for when you're at your most distressed and adrift, rather than the physical place - is a journey I particularly related to. 

Though Mim is clearly an important element of this novel as the main character and not-so-reliable narrator, the cast of characters that surround her cannot be understated. So many of the characters Mim meets and befriends along her journey sparkle. I can't help but wish I could visit each of their own stories as well. So often I'll finish a book and miss the main character and maybe the occasional love interest, but it's rare that I miss a whole rag tag group; rare that I feel each secondary character has made a lasting and important contribution to my reading experience. I wouldn't be entirely surprised to run into these characters myself if I hopped on a Greyhound bus and retraced Mim's steps.

I have no doubt readers will fall for Mim’s sardonic voice and the quirky cast of characters that surround her. Mim Malone is going to be okay ... and you are going to love this book.

Check out the book trailer:



  1. I think so far I have only heard good things about this book! It is just sitting on my shelf. I think it shall be my next read!

  2. I need to finish it! It's so good, but school is doing a magnificent job of getting in the way.


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