Arnold, David. Mosquitoland. New York: Penguin, 2015. Print.
After Mim Malone’s parents get divorced, she is dragged from her home in Ohio to Florida to live with her dad and new stepmom. She’s a dreamer and often impulsive, so when Mim hears that her mother is sick, she decides to run away from home back to Ohio via Greyhound. Along the way she encounters a strange and unique cast of characters – some nice and some not-so-nice – and she also encounters herself. It’s a journey to see her mother, but along the way she may just find herself instead.
Let me get this out of the way: I absolutely loved this book. I was captivated from the very first page and I had a hard time putting it down for even a minute.
Mim was such a wonderful, interesting, and fun character to follow. She’s independent, intelligent, quite funny, and crazy in the best way possible. At one point she decides that she will begin talking in a British accent to her fellow passengers on the bus just for the heck of it. But she’s also messed up. The divorce and the move and her mom getting sick have taken a toll on her, hence the tagline: “Mim Malone is not okay.” Sure, she makes some terrible decisions, but who hasn’t? The other characters were wonderful, too. She met some unique people during her journey, and I loved reading about each and every one of them.
The only real problem I has with it was that it is not realistic or even that believable. It’s a common cliché in young adult books for teenagers to go on these wonderful adventures, free of adults and other authoritative figures. I’m often drawn to books of this type, but I’ve recently become more skeptical and a lot of the time I’m pulled out of the story because I’m thinking about how unrealistic it is. But it didn’t bother me very much in Mosquitoland. I realized part of the way through that it really isn’t about the journey, it’s about how Mim changes and grows as a person along the way.
David Arnold has a wonderful writing style, and this was only his debut novel. I’m looking forward to reading his next book, Kids of Appetite, very soon.
When I think about if this is a classroom-worthy book, I’m conflicted. Yes, I loved it and there’s nothing inappropriate about it, but I’m not sure about an overarching theme. Perhaps something about grief in times of difficulty, whether that may be a family member getting sick, divorce, or moving away from the only home you’ve ever known.
Overall, a wonderful book, but maybe not the best thing to teach a high school class.