Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Mosquitoland

By: David Arnold
September 8th 2015
(Viking Childrens - March 3, 2015 - US)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 320

When Mim (Mary Iris Malone) is called to the Principal's office for a parent conference, she knows it's not going to go well. But when she overhears her father and step-mother talking about her mother's illness, an illness she hasn't heard of, she knows that she has to find out what's going on.

Armed only with her journal, her mother's favourite lipstick, a change of clothes, and a coffee tin full of money, Mim sets off from Mississippi to Cleveland to find her mother and find out what people aren't telling her.

I liked Mim from the start with her early observation that there were no true heroes or villains, just people capable of both heroism and villainy. She's not at all a reliable narrator. We learn early on that she's being medicated for a possible psychiatric disorder, and we don't know whether her observations of the world are coloured by this or not.

Along the journey Mim meets some wonderful and some decidedly unsavoury characters, and she records her thoughts and feelings about the events in her journal in the form of letters. The supporting characters are fully drawn, from the creepy Poncho Man to adorable Walt.

The writing in this book is just beautiful, with many quote worthy passages. I laughed and cried and gasped in shock at different points in the story, at one point I did all three while reading the same page. Mim's journey, real and metaphorical, leads to her figuring out how to be herself and how to love others.

It's beautiful, it's moving, and it's one of my top reads of the year.

"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 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.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, "Mosquitoland" is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.


  1. Every review I read of Mosquitoland makes me want to read it more. I have had so much fun with unreliable narrator stories, but I've read so few of them! I definitely need more, and psychiatric problems are one of my favorite issues for stories. I love a young protagonist who is unafraid to venture into the wild yonder and go seek out what she wants to find and know. I can only imagine where her adventures take I guess that's a sign I should go read the book!

    1. Yes, definitely! Go read it now :) Thanks for commenting.


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