Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold
Published: March 3rd, 2015
Hardcover, 352 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

"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 travellers 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.

Mim is one of kind and so is her story. From the first page I was drawn into this book and it's still holding on to me. I'm still waiting for Mim to go on another adventure and meet more people and find her way through the darkness that is life. This is exactly the kind of book I look for, a road trip book where there are new characters around every corner and you can meet someone who changes your life in such an impossible way and suddenly your regular life doesn't seem so bad and maybe your new family really does love you.

Hopping on a Greyhound bus alone to make her way back up to Cleveland, Ohio, Mim thinks she's doing the right thing by leaving her dad and her new stepmom, who's pregnant with who will soon be her new sister, to go see her sick mom. Along the way, she writes letters to someone named Iz, but we do not find out who she's really writing to until the end of the book, and when I found out I bawled my eyes out. The Greyhound trip starts out quietly, except for the creepy guy who seems to really want to talk to her and the old lady who carries a locked box that she wants to bring home to her son. It's not until the bus crashes and she's shipped onto a new bus that she starts meeting people who will change her forever. Suddenly she has a mission that the Greyhound bus can't help with. Tagging along with her is Beck, the cute guy from the bus and Walt, a kid with Down Syndrome who is wiser than anyone she knows.

This isn't just a story about a road trip. This is a story about finding yourself when you feel like you've been drowning. Mim has been on medication for as long as she's remembered and through flashbacks we find out that there is a history of mental illness in her family and her dad thinks she may not be all right. She's been prone to hallucinations and tends to black out and wear her mom's favourite lipstick like war paint. The hallucinations make her a bit of an unreliable narrator, and the further we get into the story, the more we believe that she does not need medication as she hasn't been taking it and is fine. Well, not fine, but are any of us fine?

This book shows us how it really is. There's no way you could travel across the country without some sort of disaster or unwanted things happening to you. It was not all good for Mim, but the moments that were good made everything worth it. Poncho Man was a creep, and Mim held her own against him. The old lady was wise and helped Mim realize a lot about herself. And I think I found more about myself as I read her story. It's important to be yourself in a world where no one is. Don't take the medicine to make you like everyone, let your freak flag fly. It's what makes us stand out, what makes me people love us. And you can find wonderful people in the most uncommon of places, like on a Greyhound bus, on the roof of a gas station, or on the side of a highway. The characters, the writing, the adventures were all perfect and I think this is such an important book for anyone who's suffering or doesn't feel like they belong. You belong, you matter.

A debut author, David Arnold has proven that he can write the perfect YA novel that would work for both boys and girls, young adults and adults alike, and can take each and every one of us on a great adventure without even leaving the United States. We're all weird, we're all crazy and we all just want to be happy. Wear your war paint.

"Home is hard. Harder than Reasons. It's more a storage unit for your life and its collections. It's more than an address, or even the house you grew up in. People say home is where the heart is, but I think maybe home is the heart. Not a place or a time, but an organ, pumping life into my lie. There may be more mosquitos and stepmothers than I imagined, but it's still my heart. My home."

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