Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Publisher: Viking Books
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015
Song I Played While Reading: Amadeus by Family and Friends
Rating: 4.5 stars
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 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.
There's nothing I love more than a road trip coming-of-age story. If it's executed well, it's glorious. And Mosquitoland was glorious with a capital G. Throw in a quirky, and possibly-insane narrator, and you've got my perfect novel. In lieu of the sweet acknowledgements in the back of the book, I decided to pull a David Arnold: I am 110 percent positive that some mad author created this novel in his home to perfectly compliment the book specifications of one Mariah Sarah Smith. (I tweaked his line a little, since I obviously couldn't state that "I am 110 percent positive that some mad scientist created you in a lab to perfectly compliment the specifications of a David Wesley Arnold." Very cute, but a little different.)
This review is taking me a long ass time to write up, simply because I can't put into words why I loved this book so much. All I want to do is state obvious facts, like I loved that Mim was so sassy and gritty, and I loved the quirky writing, and BECK (<3333) and then be done with this. Trying to write up a review that does Mosquitoland justice is hard, my friends. Very hard.
I just answered my own question on how I plan on tackling this review, so let's get into it, shall we?
1. MIM. I adored her for many, many reasons. She was unapologetic, strong, sassy, weird, and kind. Flawed characters are important to portray in YA, and Arnold nailed it. I'm always slightly impressed when a male author creates an authentic female character. He even mentions her getting her period! Hallelufuckinglujah. That is definitely not mentioned enough in YA, which is preposterous because it's a normal bodily function for a girl. So kudos to you, David Arnold. Mary Iris Malone is fierce, and I don't think I'll be forgetting about her any time soon.
2. BECK. I swear, I'm not doing this whole capitalized name thing on purpose, it's just that I'm still riding high on gorgeous Beck and his endlessly witty retorts and sweet whisperings. (And there was a lot of whispering in here. It was nothing sexual, literally Mim or Beck would just decide to whisper something instead of saying it in a normal tone. Don't ask me why.) It was kind of funny, the way Mim fell for Beck. It was definitely an insta-attraction, but I wouldn't say insta-love. Some will say I'm a lying fool, but whatever. It felt authentic to me, and so incredibly sweet. They just got each other. That happens in real life, those kinds of friendships or relationships that are an instant "shit, this person gets me.", so I hate when people go harping the author for this instant googly eyes shit. If a person gets you (and you find them attractive), you're going to googly eye them. DON'T EVEN DENY IT.
3. The plot was unexpected. I thought she would be on the Greyhound bus the whole time, since it's on the cover, so I was pleasantly surprised when she strayed from it. The thing I love about road trip books is that, even though the premise is the same, they're all so different. They each have their own quirky stops and interesting people and scary moments. I will say that at one point, I was questioning Mim's accountability. There was an accident, and for the life of me, I couldn't tell if it was real or not. The way Arnold introduced us to the scene (very magical realism-ey and frilly), and our lack of knowledge on what exactly Mim was suffering from, just made the whole scene confusing.
4. I wasn't overly enthralled with Walt. He wasn't a terrible character, but nor was he great. I just thought he was very bland. Surprisingly, her dad stood out to me the most. I couldn't tell if I was supposed to hate him or not. He struggled with the notion of having good intentions, but executing them terribly. He was so worried about Mim that he smothered her instead of listening to her. Their relationship was complex and real, and I really liked that. Same with her stepmom, Kathy.
I thought Arnold wrapped it up beautifully, though he almost gave me a heart attack with a certain scene involving Mim and a Reds program. A heart attack and a bad case of book throwing, because I was NOT down for that kind of scenario. Hell to the no. It was a little open-ended, but we could see a slight path outlined for us. Poignant, hopeful, bizarre, and hilarious, Mosquitoland is a must read!
"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."
"But you're a true Malone, and as such, this won't be enough for you. You'll need more than just the wheres, whens, and hows - you'll need whys. You'll think Why wouldn't Our Heroine just (insert brilliant solution here)? The truth is, reasons are hard. I'm standing on a whole stack of them right now, with barely a notion of how I got up here."
"Live bands are set up in a dozen storefront windows like mannequins, advertising twang instead of tweet. And the honkey-tonks, my God, the honkey-tonks! Until now, I'd only assumed a honky-tonk was a quiet bar full of strange people I would never want to talk to. In reality, they're obnoxiously loud bars full of strange people I would never want to talk to. I pass one with a band blaring something about a bedonkey-donk, which I can only assume is the Official Honky-Tonk National Anthem. I'm already jealous of myself five minutes ago. Because you can never un-know a honky-tonk."
"I don't know how to say good-bye to you."
He opens his eyes, his head still resting on the back of the chair. "I know."
It's quiet for a moment while I try to shape these impossible words. "Maybe it doesn't have to be, like a solid good-bye, you know?"
"As opposed to a liquid one?"
"Yes, actually. I much prefer liquid good-byes to solid ones."
Beck smiles, yawns, stretches. "So - I think my best course of action here is to just, you know, let the ridiculousness of that sentence marinate."