Review: Mosquitoland


Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Publisher: Viking Children’s

Publication date: March 3, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

So this is, as I’ve mentioned, the second of the van-cover books (technically, this one is a bus – at first glance I did think it was a van, though) that I read in one sitting at Barnes and Noble a couple of Fridays ago. I genuinely loved it and ended up buying it for my own library.

A summary from the author’s website:

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.

You know those experiences you have that, when you look back on them, seem so ridiculous that they couldn’t have possibly been real, but you know that they were? In Mosquitoland, David Arnold creates much of the same feeling. Mim’s whole road trip walks the fine line between realism and fantasy. The people she meets and the events that occur are ridiculous, but not quite beyond the realm of believability, making her whimsical adventure something amazing to experience.

Some sections of the book made me crack up, and others had me swallowing down that thick emotion you get when you’re hit hard with something that matters. My opinion of Mim shifted just as suddenly – she’s a protagonist who’s hard to pin down, not wholly reliable, not wholly understandable, but someone who I rooted for throughout the book nonetheless.

I’ve seen tons of discussion about Mim’s cultural appropriation (or rather, David Arnold’s, as the author), and how she’s not a solid portrayal of Native American culture – one of her coping mechanisms is to put on her “warpaint” lipstick across her cheeks, though she is part Cherokee. The way I took it was that she’s a teenager, and if it is inappropriate, she doesn’t know better – that’s why she’s still growing as a person. So I didn’t find it offensive, but then again, I’m white. So. Keep that in mind if you’re sensitive about cultural appropriation.

The time it took me to read Mosquitoland flew by in a flash, and when I finished I wanted to dive back into the world it had painted around me, no matter how much pain it caused. David Arnold has supremely impressed me with his debut novel, and I highly recommend this to those of you who want something equal parts gritty and sweet.

5 out of 5 stars.



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