Feb 29, 2016

Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Author: David Arnold
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: March 3, 2015
Pages/Format: 352, Hardcover
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"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." 

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. 

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Book in One Word: Trippy

Mosquitoland, despite its title and cover, wasn't really on my radar until others started raving about it. This was garnering some serious praise, and I'd seen a few quotes that had seriously piked my interest, like "For though I am not a villain, I am not immune to villainy." (Gosh, I love that.) (See also: the first paragraph of the synopsis.) It's one of those books that I finally picked up at the end of the year as I was on the search for my best book of the year--I thought it was that kind of book. And perhaps it could've been, but not for me.

This is the story of Mim Malone, a teenager who ditches her dad and stepmom in Mississippi to go find her mother in Ohio. From buses to trucks to various landscapes, Mim meets a cacophony of characters from the book's large cast, and her journey to find her mother--and discover what went wrong--turns out to be so much more. Mosquitoland deals with mental illness and family and friendship and love and focusing on the self, and how, like a mosquito, we might suck the lives out of each other--but that's not necessarily a bad thing, you know.

The thing about Mosquitoland is that I never really had any expectations for it, so I can't necessarily call it a disappointment. I mean, sure, I thought it would be good. But something just didn't click for me. The writing was good--sort of lyrical but that with somewhat gritty, there's-something-about-this-writing oomph about it--but something about it bothered me a little bit. Maybe because I was forcing myself to read it or, better yet, was hoping so much that I would love it that it couldn't help being a bit of a letdown? This could be a case of it's not you, it's me. (Sorry, book.) Even then, I don't quite understand all the hype.

Mosquitoland is a road trip-esque novel unlike any other. I couldn't even begin to tell you about all the characters--and I shouldn't, because I think that would give away an aspect of the story. But there are parts that seem just a little too unrealistic for me. And oh my gosh, Mim, STRANGER DANGER. Did no one ever teach her that? She's definitely a very strong, independent, somewhat stubborn person who can damn well hold her own and take care of herself--though it wouldn't hurt if she'd let people in from time to time, and not just strangers--but for crying out loud, kid. She had me worried a few times, because seriously, stranger danger times a million. And I know she thinks she is strange, but whatever--I loved it. Strange can be a good thing. ALSO. That ending. There's more, right?

At the end of it all, Mosquitoland is the kind of book I was seriously hoping I would fall in love with, and I'm sad to say I didn't. It's a contemporary that's definitely not fluffy (maybe more like a torn apart stuffed animal) and isn't too serious, and it leans toward that gritty side, and I love books like that. A compelling protagonist (who has war paint) and hodge podge of secondary characters, coupled with a brazen sort of prose and a story built on the mess that is life, this had the framework to be a rather fantastic novel (I keep wanting to say unapologetic?)...and I'm sorry I don't feel that way about it. It was good, but for me it was like getting a visit from a mosquito and having nothing to show for it. (Which sounds weird. But you get it, right?)

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? No, unfortunately.
Would I reread it? Possibly.
Would I purchase it? I already do, and I gotta say, it does look rather nice on the shelf.
Who would I recommend it to? If you like contemporary novels that lean toward the gritty side, have several standout secondary characters, and are run by a strong protagonist, then this might be a book for you.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like this is a case of over hype. You heard a lot of people love it, so you wanted to love it because they loved it. It totally sucks when it doesn't click with you though! I know how that feels. I'm glad you liked it however.


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