Author: David Arnold
Genre: Teen Contemporary Fiction
Publication Info: Viking Children’s, March 3, 2015
Synopsis: After her parents’ divorce, Mim is unhappily forced to move to Mississippi with her father and new stepmother. But when she hears distressing news about her mother, Mim takes off without a thought on a Greyhound bus and begins an unforgettable journey that will change everything.
Overall Rating: 4.5-5 (let’s be honest, it’s really a 5 for me)/5
Writing a review for this book is difficult. Ridiculously difficult, even. I’ve tried talking about it to friends, family, co-workers, and here’s what comes out: “Guys, this book is just… I mean, it’s so… just unique, and… yeah. You should read it.” I’m a hot mess because of this book, and this book is a hot mess. But a really touching, remarkable hot mess. So forgive me for remaining unable to sound professional and polished when discussing this one.
This is easily one of the weirdest plots I’ve ever read. Granted, the premise–a hero’s quest to save a loved one that turns into self-discovery–is as old as story-telling. Mosquitoland really is a contemporary odyssey with a teenage heroine. But nothing that happens on this trip is normal, from a kung-fu fight on a gas station roof to a trip to the vet with a human patient (and that’s all I can say without spoiling anything). However, every abnormal, seemingly random event is woven together in a cohesive whole that feels too weird not to be true. Not once did I put the book down for its sheer ridiculousness; I shook my head and kept reading, realizing that life will throw everything crazy and unexpected towards us. Kudos, David Arnold. You’ve shown true plot prowess here.
Like the plot, our main character, Mim, is as strange as they come: medicated for possible schizophrenia, blind in one eye, and instantly judgmental of others based on only their name. Not the typical heroine, right? Yet her idiosyncrasies and quirks make her very real (again, like the plot). Mim is a character anyone can relate to or adore–funny, witty, and blunt. Throughout her journey, she’s flawed and cynical, due to a harsh, discerning perspective of the world and a life’s worth of pain. And she’s so contradictory, acting fearless when she’s terrified of truly being crazy, brutally honest at times and fiercely secretive at others. Because of this, her point of view and her story was a puzzle and joy to read. Mim learns so much through her quest to find her mom, and as she grows, she gives the reader so many deep thoughts and moments of clarity. God, I really love this character.
This book also boasts a slew of unusual side characters, all with important roles in Mim’s story, but I can’t write about them without giving away significant things. (I really want to, but I just can’t. Don’t hate me. Read the book, and then we can talk.) Just know that I love and/or appreciate each’s role and individuality.
Finally, Arnold really outdoes himself as a writer. This book is so literary that it’s palpable. Mim’s journey contains allusions to Moby Dick, the Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and probably way more I didn’t catch. And the METAPHORS, guys. Mosquitoland is rife with ’em. (She’s freaking blind in one eye. Just saying.) But beyond providing a literary scavenger hunt that keeps nerds like me happy, Arnold, speaking through Mim (and other characters), gives us so much to think about, to the point that I’m still hashing and rehashing things days after closing the book. That, to me, is what makes this a winner.
(TLDR: While weird and unusual, Mosquitoland is a must read!)
Who I recommend this to:
- Honestly, I can’t fit this book into any one category. I suggest everyone should download a sample or flip through a few pages, and then if you’re intrigued, count that as a green light.
- High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, sexual violence, mental illness, mentions of suicide)