Friday, September 9, 2016

Review: Mosquitoland - David Arnold

David Arnold
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Viking Children's
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I bought this a long-ish time ago (it's definitely been like a year) and always intended to read it while traveling -- because it's a book where the protagonist takes a 947 mile road trip and I'm all about symbolism. And I'd always bring it on every flight I took and every road trip and I just never got around to reading it (I always bring lots of options on trips and just kept picking different books). However, this past August, I road tripped to New York (I live in North Carolina if you're new) and finally read it!

Just like me, David Arnold seems to love symbolism and metaphors because this book was full of them. It centers around Mim Malone, a 16 year old girl who runs away with the emergency money she steals from her stepmom's dresser drawer and hops on a Greyhound from Mississippi (where she lives) to Ohio (where her mom lives). Even though it's been a little while since I've finished it, I'm still not totally sure how I feel about this book.

The writing was definitely the best part. It's told through first-person by Mim and interspersed are letters she's writing to her aunt Isabel as the trip goes on. Mim had a really unique voice and a lot of the book was Inner Monologue (which I thought was cool and worked with this book) that served to teach us about her character and "the whys behind her whats." I've seen a lot of the negative reviews of this book call the writing "wannabe John Green" but I feel like that's an unfair way of looking at it -- just because someone writes a contemporary novel with an "odd" character doesn't mean they're trying to be John Green. As much as I love him, he didn't invent the Quirky Protagonist. Anyway, I didn't make the connection while reading but if you like John Green's books and are wondering if you should read this: I think the writing style might appeal to you but the book as a whole package is something a little different so that's just a matter of personal taste.

Anyway, the writing really was beautiful and flowed exquisitely and I really just liked the way David Arnold strung words together. It was for sure my favorite aspect of this book.

There actually isn't that much in regard to plot, which is why I think the inner monologue works. A heavy plot and a constant inner monologue would be way too much. The book is just a coming-of-age type thing where she goes on a trip and meets people and learns from them and Weird and Unexpected Complications arise. If you don't like light plots and need something super involved with like crazy plot twists and hella foreshadowing this is maybe not the book for you. This is mostly just shit happening and rolling with the punches. For the most part I didn't feel bored or anything but there was a chunk around the end that felt kinda slow and where I wished it'd hurry along.

I read Mosquitoland essentially in two chunks and while I was reading, I really liked everything, but when it was over I was a little confused about how I felt. I think I was just enamored by the writing style and didn't pay attention to much else and then when it wore off I had time to process. One of the confusing things is Mim herself. She's an unlikable protagonist, but not in the way that makes you hate a book. Like, I've definitely reviewed books where I couldn't stand the book because the main character was just so insufferable and this isn't like that. This is more of a Catcher in the Rye situation where you know Holden Caulfield is a jerk but you still appreciate the book. Mim is very 16 but very much believes that she transcends what it means to be 16. Sometimes, her oddities do make her a character you can like and appreciate, like getting seven scoops of ice cream at a pit stop just because she can, but sometimes they kinda miss the mark, like when she basically goes on a Not Like Other Girls tangent. She also is kinda mean to Walt, her friend/traveling-companion who has Down syndrome. (They have a third companion, a 21(ish) year old named Beck who Mim is highkey in love with but thankfully he has enough common sense to understand how young 16 is).

Mim is also definitely an unreliable narrator, which you understand right from the get-go. She talked a lot about her dad and stepmom forcing her to see a psychiatrist for psychosis and delusions, just like her aunt, and I thought that was gonna play a bigger part in the plot and kept like watching to see which characters interacted with which ones (honestly every time I read a book I always assume someone is gonna be dead or not real the whole time I'm the worst). I kinda wish it'd been elaborated on more.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and loved the writing style. There were a few awkward and questionable parts but the characters were all unique --not just Mim; I know I didn't touch on side characters much but they were all great. I think it's definitely worth a read but it might not be everyone's cup of tea. I'll definitely be looking out for David Arnold's other works!

- Noor

Where's your next road trip destination?
Let us know in the comments!

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