I recently pressed a copy of David Arnold’s Mosquitoland onto a colleague recently, only to find it sitting on my desk at school the next morning. This could mean one of two things:
1) She hated it, gave up on it, and didn’t want to face my disappointment, or
2) She had read the entire book in one evening because it was unputdownable.
It was the latter.
I had the same fevered experience with Arnold’s new novel, Kids of Appetite, reading the entire book in the car on my way home from Notre Dame’s embarrassing loss to Duke (no, I was not driving, in case you were concerned).
Kids of Appetite manages to be simultaneously about both the sad calculation of loss and the affirming power of found truths—truths about community, family and how we find ourselves.
Vic finds himself being interrogated at the police station, which is where we first meet him, accused of being part of a horrible crime.
Vic finds himself without a home, having had an epic falling out with his widowed mother and Frank The Boyfriend. Vic also finds himself without much in the way of a friend, living in a social isolation born of the rare syndrome that has left him with facial paralysis.
But Vic also finds Mad as he wanders the streets, and his attraction to her leads him to her “family,” and most importantly to Baz, a refugee from the Republic of the Congo with a complicated history and a commitment to helping people find themselves.
And himself is exactly what Vic ultimately finds, after much hilarity (much of it from foul-mouthed young "family" member Coco) and heartbreak. Arnold structures the novel deftly, with the interstitial present-time interrogations by the police of Vic and Mad, and then flashbacks of Vic- or Mad-narrated sections, sections themselves often containing further flashbacks, all leading us up to and beyond the shocking climax.
Kids of Appetite sings with cleverness, profundity, and empathy, and while some might find some of the more baroque notes too much, I found the story redemptive and a resounding triumph. So much so that I momentarily forgot the Notre Dame loss and focused instead on what I’d found.