REVIEW: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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Standalone
Publication Date: March 3rd 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, Travel/Road trip
Number of Pages: 352 pages
My Rating: ★★★★✩

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synopsis

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 a 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.


review

David Arnold’s debut novel, Mosquitoland, follows the story of a very lonely and afflicted Mary Iris “Mim” Malone. Her parents divorced, her dad remarried a month later, and, convinced that her father and stepmother are hiding something about her mother’s health situation, Mim steals $1800 from her stepmother, runs to her mother and away from Mississippi – the titular Mosquitoland.

The book is written from Mim’s POV, which we all know could mean that she may not be entirely aware of her surroundings and only writes what she sees or believes in, therefore makes her unreliable.

I think understanding who you are — and who you are not — is the most important thing of all Important Things.

The first thing I noticed in Mosquitoland is the writing. There was something so captivating with the way the story was told. It was dream-like. Is this really happening? Is this a hallucination? WHAT IS LIFE!!! Also, the author did not romanticize mental illness in this novel (which most of the authors do). I just… I have to commend David Arnold on this work of art. *sighs*

There’s so much to discuss about this book that I find myself struggling where to start, but I’ll try: Don’t read this if you’re in the mood for a light-read. Because it’s totally not.

I have to talk about the amount of hate this book is receiving — how it’s trying too hard to be the next John Green novel, the use of “war paint”, and the unrealistic everything — and why I have to disagree with that.

  • Trying too hard to be the next John Green novel. I totally get how a lot of readers could sense a JG vibe from this book. I get it. But I don’t see it that way.
    I see an author who has done a great job in writing and creating his characters; it just happened that [some] readers are sooooo over the John Green “genre” where there is a philosophically-minded, sarcastic, and i’m-so-freaking-cool-and-you’re-so-freaking-not teen protagonist. But please, give this book a chance.
  • MimWarPaint
    Mim puts on her “war paint”

    The use of “war paint” which a lot of readers found insulting. Alright, non-readers, I have to orient you about this one: So, Mim often suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, and her way of regaining herself is putting on her “war paint” with the use of her mother’s lipstick. About 1/3 of the book, we learned that Mim is 1/16 Cherokee.Here’s a thing: Mim appeared to be clueless about a lot of things throughout the book, that’s why I didn’t even think the war paint was insulting! In fact, it didn’t even occur to me until I started reading reviews. Moreover, she clearly said she’s misinterpreting her Cherokee heritage (among other things?). Readers are aware that the “war paint” wasn’t actually used to offend anyone (cultural appropriation), so I’m not really sure what the fuss is about. If you know something, please please explain it to me, I would very much appreciate it.

  • Unrealistic everything. May it be referring to Mim’s being or the way the whole “road trip” thing went on, readers found this book unrealistic.
    Part of the beauty of this character is that she is, as I mentioned earlier, clueless about almost everything. She is brave so she decided to become spontaneous. She is spontaneous because she wanted to get what she wants. She is flawed and therefore makes her so human. So youthful.

I think about how quickly things have changed for me. But that’s the personality of change, isn’t it? When it’s slow, it’s called growth; when it’s fast, it’s change. And God, how things change: some things, nothings, anythings, everythings . . . all the things change.

Mosquitoland-endpapers
Mosquitoland endpaper shows a glimpse of Mim’s life on the road / Source: Kindred Studio

As for the road trip, I didn’t care much about that. It is so beautifully written and the side characters are well-crafted as well. It was also very fun to take a peek on the endpaper every once in a while!

Despite enjoying the company of Mim and her friends in this book, the reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is I find it kind of difficult to really get into the story. It is beautifully written, there’s no doubt about that, but there were just some parts where I’d be like blablabla. . . oh wait I didn’t get that. Damn, now I have to reread it! For example, ~*SPOILER ALERT*~ the night of the accident just happened out of nowhere. It was hard for me to grasp the situation what with the author’s way of writing. Also, Mim’s constant complaining and snarky remarks got tiring at some points.

I recommend it to contemporary YA fans looking for something a bit different, readers who like road trips, and people who like indie movies.

Although not as much as I wanted to and not as much as I thought I would, I LOVED MOSQUITOLAND. It’s full of heart-warming moments and quotable quotes! It’s something I would reread for the purpose of understanding Mim more; her personality, her struggles, her whole being, is so intriguing. I’d like to know more about her and imagine her as a friend. She’s a bit annoying sometimes, but you couldn’t help but root for her on her journey. This book is just delightful.

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