According to David Arnold’s bio and author photo, he’s a relatively young guy with a wife and a young son. I’m not sure why he decided to write a YA novel from a teen girl’s point of view, but I’m sure glad he did. The story of Mim (Mary Iris Malone) in Mosquitoland is a combination of charming, stressful, exciting, and deeply satisfying.
Mim’s father thinks she might be showing signs of the mental illness that Mim’s aunt Isabel experienced before committing suicide, so Mim has been to a psychiatrist and is currently on medication she doesn’t really want to take. Add that to her parents’ divorce, her father’s rather hurried remarriage, the new family moving away from the mother’s city, and then the discovery Mim is soon to have a baby sister, and there’s good reason for Mim to feel too much is happening too fast. She buys a Greyhound bus ticket and heads back to Ohio to find her mother.
What happens to Mim along the way and the people she meets make up most of the story. There’s a bit of craziness, a little serendipity, and a lot of edgy behavior to stretch what might have been reality into more of a fantasy….but I’ve taken some of those Greyhound bus trips and I didn’t find one bit of Mim’s trip unbelievable.
It’s difficult enough in adult novels to deal with topics of mental illness, learning disabilities, creepy guys who prey on young girls, and fear. Tackling the topics in a YA novel and still maintaining an element of humor and joy strikes me as a very difficult task. Arnold pulls it off beautifully, in my opinion, but that’s from an older reader’s point of view.
I took a look at the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.com and found most other readers liked the novel. It also appears I’m not the only adult reader choosing YA novels these days, but that’s a potential topic for another day.
Meanwhile, if you like to read YA novels, please add Mosquitoland to your TBR list. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to know what you think.