It takes a special talent for an author to tap into the mind of a character who is radically different from himself, and first-time novelist David Arnold has uncannily captured the voice of a 16-year-old girl with beauty and style in Mosquitoland.
Mary Iris Malone (or, as she prefers, “Mim”) is an unhappy teenager for many reasons: divorced parents, new stepmother Kathy, no friends at her new school. She is angry with her father for leaving her mother, for making her move from Ohio to Mississippi and for marrying a woman Mim finds ridiculous. When she overhears a conversation about how her mother isn’t feeling well, Mim decides that she needs to go back to Cleveland and see her mom. Without telling anyone, she hops on a Greyhound bus. Although her stepmother keeps calling her, Mim is sure that Kathy is the reason she hasn’t heard from her mom and so she refuses to answer. Mim’s journey is fraught with peril and rife with self-discovery as she questions her own sanity and the trustworthiness of everyone she meets.
Arnold’s prose is delicious as he peels back each of Mim’s layers on her long ride. The characters she encounters along the way and her internal thoughts about life, love, friendships and survival are pitch perfect. As with any teenager, Mim struggles with personal angst, but she is as open to possibilities as she is to the open road.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Arnold for Mosquitoland.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through eighth level Catholic school.