Mosquitoland is a delightful gem by David Arnold that needs to be added to all young adult genre lovers’ must-read lists. It’s a coming-of-age adventure novel of a very special young girl that will fill your heart, make you laugh, maybe make you cry, and will somehow fill you with a little bit of wanderlust, disgust, inspiration, and gusto all at once.
When 16-year-old Mary Iris Malone (Mim) is forced to move to an atrocious town in Mississippi, which she refers to as Mosquitoland, with her dad and horror of a stepmother Kathy in tow, she must leave her mother and former life behind in Ohio. When the letters stop coming from Mim’s mom she becomes hell bent to find her and give her much needed help while coping with a mysterious disease back home.
Throughout Mosquitoland, we follow Mim on her weeklong quest to reach her mom with a few pit stop rendezvous and new friends along the way. Mim meets some strange characters in her travels and with her witty, loquacious attitude, some deep, thoughtful hilarity ensues.
Arnold’s writing is surprisingly breathtaking; I had to reread sentences just for the thrill of processing them again. The humor that Arnold uses through the main character Mim just jumps off the pages and into your heart. Mim is the spunkiest, cheekiest, toughest little warrior of a character I have ever figuratively met, and it was a pleasure indeed to spend some time with her in Mosquitoland. Is it sad that a fictional 16 year-old is my new role model? She is a unique individual and does not hold back an ounce and I loved every single sentence spoken by her: “People just can’t help themselves when it comes to quotation marks. As if they’re completely paralyzed by this particular punctuation. I guess it’s not really that big of a deal, but it does seem to be a widespread brand of easily avoided buffoonery.”
Mim should be a role model to all young adult readers as she lives by the beat of her own drum, is proud of her own weirdness, and accepts her inner self, a hurdle that every person eventually faces and not always successfully: “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.”
Such love and thought was put into each character by Arnold, it was a treat to see them develop on the pages and a treat to read about all the strong values throughout, such as family, friends, love, home, happiness and staying true to one’s own path. “Home is hard. Harder than Reasons. It’s more a storage unit for your life and its collections. It’s more than an address, or even the house you grew up in. People say home is where the heart is, but I think maybe home is the heart. Not a place or a time, but an organ, pumping life into my life. There may be more mosquitos and stepmothers than I imagined, but it’s still my heart. My home.”