Mosquitoland by David Arnold

91axxEfh2-LAnother book hyped to the point of no return…

Look, guys, I wanted to love this book. I heard great things upon even greater things about it over the course of the past year, but every time that I tried to push “add to cart” something nagged at me until I chose another book from my never-ending TBR pile instead. Had it not been for one thing, I probably never would have picked it up.

Unfortunately, for a brief stint I was partaking in the Uppercase Box Personalized Plan, which is, in essence, where they send you a book based solely on your personal and unique and individual tastes. Now, I found this to be a bad deal for several reasons, the greatest of which is that, unlike the regular subscribers, you don’t get a signed book with accompanying additional and exclusive content. Since you have to pay more for the personalized box I found it unfair that I didn’t get a signed book or any extra content (videos, polls, notes from the author) to enhance my reading experience (and those are the best parts of the Uppercase Box, in my opinion – really, one of the only things that sets them apart from their competition). Anyway, I will say the “personalized” books they picked for me were pretty well-chosen, at least up until Mosquitoland arrived at my door.

I was lulled into a false sense of security by Lisa Parkin’s letter, which claimed that if I had loved Nicola Yoon’s gorgeous Everything Everything (which I had) I would also love David Arnold’s standalone novel for its cast of equally endearing and quirky characters.

Unfortunately, I did not.

The characters are, indeed, quirky. Absurdly so, in fact. But I found them incredibly hard to relate to or love by any stretch of that word. The prose itself was beautiful in many places, and I often felt a tug of my heartstrings begging me to fall in love with this book, if only because it was written so well.

“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.”

It’s beautiful, is it not?

But beautiful words can only carry a story so far, and, at least for me, I found Mosquitoland to be a rather grim and grasping book. As much as I wanted to rally around the strange and stubborn Mim Malone, I feel like I always came just short of connecting with her. She’s a slippery one, that girl. Now, that’s not to say that she’s not the most likable character in this story (she probably is), but that was a problem for me. I don’t like a story where the likable characters are few and far between. I know many people who do, and I respect that and think they would do well with a book like this in their hands, but I found it simply depressing.

The host of supporting characters range from the okay – Kathy, Mim’s stepmother (and the sanest of them all perhaps); The old woman who acts as a spirit guide briefly; Beck, the hot love interest; and Walt, a mentally handicapped boy you can’t help but feel sorry for –  to awful – Mim’s father, who doesn’t seem to really care about her at all; The poncho man, who does terrible things to the innocent, and Mim’s mother, who is so broken she can’t even bother to write her own daughter a letter once a week. It’s one heck of a journey with Mim at the helm, and I have no doubt that many will find it refreshing and compelling, and an all-around best-of kind of book. I’m just not one of those people.

I found the plot to be crass (and the language and content was, at times, beyond lewd), the characters to be all sharp angles and broken pieces, and the only shining light to be at the very end of the novel when we find out more about who Mim has been writing to throughout her journey. But, for me at least, the destination, while good, is not worth the journey.

    • It’s okay – I’ve gotten some great recs and reads from you guys – this one just wasn’t for me!

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