Mary Iris Malone, her self-described heroine of David Arnold’s novel Mosquitoland, is having, in the words of Beth Henley, “a real bad day.” Her cherished mother has moved out of the family home after announcing she and Mim’s father are divorcing, Mim’s dad has married Kathy Sharone Malone and the new rhyming couplet have moved the family 933 miles away from their Ohio home to the “wastelands of Mississippi. Now, on the day Mim gets sent to the principal’s office for yet another violation of her high school’s code, she overhears her Dad and Kathy say that her mom has a disease.
It is time for the 16-year-old Mim to hit the road on her own. She leaves Mosquitoland with only about $800 in stolen cash, a tube of her mother’s favorite lipstick and a bag of chips. She buys a ticket to ride on a Greyhound and before even setting foot on board, begins a series of life-defining adventures that allude to everything from The Odyssey to Alice in Wonderland to Moby Dick.
USA Today called Mosquitoland “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2015/03/11/mosquitoland-book-review/24669245/ I can see the point, but Mim with her own anomalous collection of oddities has the intense self-centered reflection of the Millennial Generation without the lightness of a Ferris Bueller. She’s Andie from Pretty in Pink confronting the Scylla and Charybdis of current America with a couple of other travelers she encounters on the way.
Closing his eyes again, Beck repositions his head on the back of his seat, and in one sure movement, reaches over and grabs my hand. Even with his eyes closed, he knew where to find me. I want to cry for a thousand reasons, laugh for a thousand others; this is my anomalous balance, the place where Beck and I can let the ridiculousness of our collective sentences marinate, and other things, too. It’s a singular moment of clarity between two people, and rare or not, I’m not about to let go.
I’m done roaming hillsides.
I’ve scoured the corners of the earth.
And I’ve found my people.
God, I’m almost jealous of myself.
Holding Beck’s hand in my lap, I find a courage I never knew I had and drop my head on his shoulder.
Author Arnold, a guy (!), writes Mosquitoland in Mim’s, a girl (!), first person voice. And
does a swell job of it. If I had any quibble at all, it was the dialogue sometimes got too cutesy, sometimes too sophisticated, and sometimes too — I don’t know — dare I say “Male” for a 16 year old girl? Teenage girls in John Greene and David Arnold novels often launch into Tina Fey-Amy Schumer-Amy Poehler-Sisters-Trainwreck speech which seems too movie-fied. But as I don’t have a 16 year old daughter myself, THANK THE GOOD LORD, I can’t be sure.
“I have a license,” says a voice behind us. I turn to find 17C scrolling through pictures on his camera, standing in the front yard like a deep-rooted tree, like he’s been there for years. Somehow, that black eye only makes him more desirable. “And you are . . . ?” asks Moses. A) Perfect B) The god of Devastating Attractiveness C) A flawless specimen, created in a lab by mad scientists in an effort to toy with the heart of Mary Iris Malone D) All of the above I circle D. Final effing answer.
I think Mosquitoland would be a great choice for my own book club. Most of my clubbers have daughters who either are, were or will be teenagers and perhaps this offers some insight into what teenage girls are thinking about (hint: boys, themselves) and why. It’s funny, sweet, but has moments of biting pathos as well. And since a good bit of it takes place in Kentucky and David Arnold lives in my old Kentucky hometown of Lexington, you really cannot go wrong!
According to David’s website, http://www.davidarnoldbooks.com, his second book Kids of Appetite will be released on September 20, 2016. You can also find him on twitter: @roofbeam. (Incidentally, I’m on twitter too! @daeandwrite)
Food and drink abound in Mosquitoland, and David was kind enough to share with me via twitter a recipe for “Medieval burgers” mentioned in the novel.
Medieval Burgers and Fries. According to David, medieval burgers require jack cheese to be placed inside the burger before grilling. Voila! Medieval.
Kung Pao Chicken — tip, avoid msg
Pie and Ice Cream
So here’s another great reason to read Mosquitoland! The music mentioned in the novel is awesome AND David, a freelance musician/producer, has written his own music to accompany the book that you can download!
So the music mentioned includes:
The Doors, Break on Through
(and something I can’t read because I wrote it while driving and listening to the audiobook)
David Arnold’s music: http://cinemacycle.bandcamp.com
Mim: A Young Ellen Page, obviously. Or Chloe Grace Moretz
Beck: Alex Pettyfer