October 28, 2015

Mosquitoland by David Arnold


by David Arnold

          “Writing sort of…rounds off the sharp edges of my brain, you know?” 
          I nod, but I don’t know; with Aunt Iz, I rarely do.  
          “Tell you what,” she says. “When I go back to Boston, you write to me. You’ll see what I mean.” 
          I consider this for a moment. “Do I have sharp edges, too, Aunt Iz?” 
          She smiles and laughs, and I don’t know why. “Maybe, little lamb. Either way, you should write. It’s better than succumbing to the madness of the world.” 
          Here she pauses, glances at the door where Dad had just been standing. “And cheaper than pills.” – page 43

If you like The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Thirteen Reasons Why, it is a safe bet you'll enjoy David Arnold's teen coming-of-age novel Mosquitoland.

Mim Malone is forced from her life with her mom in Ohio to move in with her father and stepmother in Mississippi. Mim is out of place and uncomfortable with her newlywed father and even more so when she learns her stepmom is expecting. Struggling with her own battle with mental illness and social anxietites, when Mim discovers her mother is ill, she runs away from home and boards a Greyhound bus desperate to see her mom and attempt to reconnect with the life, safety, and comfort she once knew.

Mim's experiences traveling cross-country are anything but normal: she's attacked by a pedophile, survives a horrific bus accident, and eventually abandons her route as she runs for cover. It is then that she meets a mentally-challenged homeless teenager and a college-aged boy she recognizes from her bus and the police station. The three outsiders band together and search for home.

Written in epistolary format, Arnold's characters are inventive, entertaining, and dynamic. They make good choices and bad choices, controversies and arguments regarding the plot abound, and this rawness helps make an otherwise unrelatable tale a very engaging read. The story is funny and tragic, both uplifting and depressing. While the reading level is ages twelve and up, audiences should be aware of trigger warnings and may want to reserve the novel for more mature readers.

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