Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mary Iris Malone is not okay.

Her family has imploded and she's lost her home, forced to move in with her dad and his new girlfriend in Mississippi, which Mary, or Mim, as she prefers to be called, dubs "Mosquitoland".

Unsettled, heavily medicated and fragile, sixteen year old Mim learns a life-altering secret: her mom is sick in Cleveland. Mim decides to take matters into her own hands, she steals money from her dad's girlfriend and hops on a Greyhound bus.

On her thousand-plus mile journey Mim meets a slew of unforgettable characters, some helpful, some treacherous. Even more, she has to cope with her own mind, which she doesn't fully trust after being picked apart by psychologists and pharmaceuticals.

Mosquitoland is told in a diary-style format, for me, very reminiscent of Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of my favourite novels. I'm not sure if this made the novel more appealing to me, but I really enjoyed Mim's voice. It's deep without being preachy, dry, witty and best of all, fearless.

Mim has her eyes on Cleveland and there is nothing, and I mean nothing that is going to get in her way. Luckily, she's got some help, there's Walt, the homeless teen with Down's Syndrome, and Beck, a boy she falls in love with almost on sight on her doomed Greyhound bus trip.

This novel has had its detractors, there's the "war paint" that Mim applies to her face when she's stressed or scared. Lipstick lines that she puts on her face to recreate a Native American priestess. Mim is part Cherokee, and addresses the fact that it's politically incorrect herself, but I can see how this will draw criticism. Personally, I think Arnold did this to show that Mim isn't perfect, that she's a messed up sixteen year old who has coping issues.

In a nutshell, if you love stories about being on the road, lots of sarcastic humour and a gut-wrenching underlying narrative, you will really dig Mosquitoland.

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