Mosquitoland (2015): Book Review

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A thing’s not a thing until you say it out loud.

That’s one of the chapter titles from Mosquitoland, a road-trip coming of age novel covering new territory in a familiar and oversaturated genre. Mental health is a big component to in the novel. The one-sentence first chapter is I am Mary Iris Malone and I am not okay.

And she isn’t okay. Her mother was sent off to a mental hospital and hasn’t been seen for months. Her left eye can’t see very well and her stepmom (a Denny’s waitress no less) is getting on her nerves. Mary needs out and she does just that by hopping on a Greyhound, looking at a 1,000+ journey to finally reunite with her mom again. Oh, and she doesn’t like to be called Mary. Mim, okay?

A number of characters are encountered during the trip. All of them deal with their own problems and goals. There’s a big lady with a canister full of mystery, a poncho man who keeps stalking Mim, bus toilet with hard to follow instructions, and more. This is definitely more of a character driven book than a plot driven book. And that’s what makes it so good.

Mim is the atypical quirky girl who thinks abstract thoughts, has big plans, and is wise beyond her years. She’s the type of character you might see in a John Green novel…but better, more fleshed out, and someone who has hipster is tendencies but is actually normal and cool overall. The novel is told in first person present tense in Mim’s point of view. Words and thoughts stream together seamlessly. David Arnold is an exceptional writer.

Different sorts of lively characters make each chapter pack a punch. There’s normal adults, snotty kids, ex-convicts, and bad toothed smiling people. Sayings, interactions, and thoughts become so poetic. I found myself underlining and highlighting in the book NUMEROUS times (I think I have at least three dozen underlines, ha!).

I’d go out on a limb and say Mosquitoland is one of this year’s best YA novels. The different settings and characters make it a great read for anyone. It touches on subjects like mental health and soul-searching in such poetically touching ways. Even some non-corny non-cliché romance is thrown in. A