REVIEW: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland 02

Title: Mosquitoland
Author: David Arnold
Format: Hardcover, 342 pages
Publication: March 3rd 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Gifted by my childhood best friend (thank you Treena!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, Road Trip, Young Adult

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After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.


Debut author David Arnold tells a vibrant narrative in Mosquitoland. You would want to meet Mim and the caboodle of cast she befriends (or not) in this surprisingly funny, poignant and ultimately heartwarming multicolored road trip.

Mary Iris “Mim” Malone is not okay. Mom and Dad divorced and now Stepmom is in the picture. She is resituated a thousand miles away from Mom and home and it doesn’t help that Dad wants her to take medication after an unclear psychiatric diagnosis. Worse still is overhearing Mom is sick. So, in a bout of mutiny and daughterly affection, she accepts her mission as a “Mother-effing Mother-Saver” and runs away, equipped with wits, cynicism, war paint, a journal and eight hundred eighty dollars. Here’s the thing: I think there’s only one Mim in all of literature. This is very clear from page 1, first sentence—which is saying something, heck, probably the somethingest of Somethings. She’s erratic but not in any means tacky or supererogatory; it’s organic. Her voice sounds natural, her odyssey equal parts heartrending and heartening. But Mim, like every 16-year-olds before her, is not exempt to Myopic Faultiness, “wearing near-sighted glasses in a far-sighted world.” And this is where the greatest triumph of Mosquitoland lies in. Mim is prone to getting caught up inside her head but there’s also growth, juxtaposed with her quest to reach and save her mom. Her physical journey is as captivating as her emotional one is touching.

“Every great character, Iz, be it on page or screen, is multidimensional. The good guys aren’t all good, the bad guys aren’t all bad, and any character wholly one or the other shouldn’t exist at all. Remember this when I describe the antics that follow, for though I am not a villain, I am not immune to villainy.”

The novel delves into important subjects like depression and family and trust issue but because the humor is so on point, it doesn’t read as heavy. Mim is all about the wry and you have to hand it to the author for the effortless execution. And, although it has a pretty slow outset, it is never dragging. There are references to pop culture here and there, too, which is sure to click with readers and just, the guy described a smile using Belgian waffle. A Belgian waffle smile. Five hundred awesome points!

I don’t care, man. I’ve faked yawned, slow blinked, loud sighed, and pretend searched. I considered murdering you, as well as a variety of suicides. Now I’m going to put this in a way I know you’ll understand: you stole my friend’s seat, and I’d rather die than listen to you speak.”

I adore David’s writing style. It’s very contemporary but has a poetic undertone. He has a way at picking thoughts you never considered others have as well. Like, okay, since Tommy Wallach is obviously more eloquent than me, I’ll let him take the mic: “the best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world.” The only way this novel could’ve been better is if the author went deeper into Mim’s diagnosis.

“But now I know the truth. You can laugh and cry, Iz. Because they’re basically the same thing.”

The best element of this work, however, for me at least, is the exceptionally unforgettable band of characters. There’s Mim’s dysfunctional family, a no-bullshit old woman, an adorable-charming-endearing kid with Down syndrome, a 20-something photographer with his faults and possibly “the God of Devastating Attractiveness,” a schizophrenic vagrant and many, many more. He explores love and chosen family in a beautiful light that you often feel two or three emotions at once. And, you know, I love that each of these characters has a story to tell, like, if the author decided to switch narrators, it’ll be just as fascinating.

“You spend your life roaming the hillsides, scouring the four corners of the earth, searching desperately for just the one person to fucking get you. And I’m thinking, if you can find that, you’ve found home.”

David makes an impression with his debut and it’s this: he knows what he’s doing. And in a true Mim fashion, a montage rolls through my head, in it, I see Mosquitoland being read in class. An instant classic.

4.0 out of 5


David Arnold

David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. Previous jobs include freelance musician/producer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And chips. He believes fiercely in chips. Mosquitoland is his first novel.

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Have you read this book already? No? Have I convinced you to pick it up? Who are the most unforgettable voices in your list? Also, what are some of your favorite road trip titles? Or, just, what was the last amazing book you read? Gimme your recs!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

15 thoughts on “REVIEW: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

  1. Have I read Mosquitoland:
    I’m a little over halfway done with Mosquitoland.

    Have you convinced me: I would be convinced if I wasn’t already reading. Stimulating review.

    Most unforgettable voices, good question. I’m sure you’re regretting this:
    -Mim (obviously)
    -Aaron from MHTN
    -Adelina from TYE by Marie Lu
    -Caddie from Don’t Touch by Rachel Wilson (one of my first mental illness)
    -Mara from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy
    -Calliope from Oblivion by Sasha Dawn
    -Anika from Anatomy of A Misfit by Andrea Portes
    -Max from Liars Inc by Paula Stokes
    -Si (come on, now) First authentic LGBT character ever read, period.
    -Willowdean (from the little I’ve seen)-Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
    -Sam from Every Last Word by Tamara I Stone.
    -Caroline from Every Last Word
    -Meira from Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (one of my first of this type of fantasy)
    -Sam from More Than This (from the little I’ve seen)
    I could go on, but I’m actually going to answer your other questions.

    Favorite road trip titles: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

    The last amazing book I read: Oh dear God, don’t make me choose.
    Besides what you already know (MHTN), the last one to really touch me was Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. You totally conquered the comment section, Wesaun! So, okay:

      1. Thank you!
      2. You know I love Simon with all my heart but is he really your FIRST authentic LGBT character?
      3. I’m really curious about Every Last Word.
      4. Dumplin’ too.
      5. More Than This by Patrick Ness? I think you’re talking about Seth?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! I feel it’s good to try to comment a good comment after a post, you know?
        1. You’re welcs.
        2. YES. The first to be an actual teenager. To sound like someone I could know IRL. I’d tell you the books I read before Simon, but I’m not into bashing diverse lit. The more, the better. Besides, have to practice what I preach.
        3. I really want you to read it and report back after your other books and FANS, Shelumiel.
        4. Sweet.
        5. I’ve been thinking about nothing but Mosquito land the last few days. Sorry. Oh, and it was really good.


  2. I am listening to this one on audiobook right now, and the narrator alongside Arnold’s writing is making the experience super enjoyable. Normally I am not a big fan of books with letters in them, but listening to this one has made it really interesting!
    -Monica @ Tomes Project


  3. YOU CONVINCED ME. Although, tbh, it was already on wish list because it sounds soooo gooood. And it’s one of the few book trailers (I usually avoid them like the plague) that actually made me want the book! Mim’s voice sounds TERRIFIC. Gawsh, a really clear strong voice? Hmmm…probably The Scorpio Races. Puck’s voice really stayed with me. Or, if we’re going to rave about Maggie Stiefvater (which is 98% of what I do) also James from Ballad and Lament. jfadkl James. So smart. So sassy. So venerable. Really strong voices ALWAYS sell a book to me. *nods*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who are we kidding? YOU CAN WRITE FIVE ARTICLES TALKING ABOUT STIEFVATER. But, yeah, strong voices always get me, too! And I KNOW RIGHT. The book trailer is very curiosity-piquing! Jasmine Warga captured Mim very well!


  4. Although I take credit for persuading myself to read MOSQUITOLAND, I still have to thank you for reminding me why I wanted to read this book. And I now know that when Miel loves a book, it must be DAMN GOOD. If you want another road trip book, I recommend AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. SHUT UP! You are too generous, sir! I’ve been wanting to read A&R since I read a post about it by one of my blogging heroes, Jen of Pop! Goes The Reader. Sadly, however, I haven’t gotten around to it. I will remedy this soon! And thanks for the rec!


  5. So this is really irrelevant, but when I saw Malone I immediately thought of Mary Malone from His Dark Materials. So there’s that. This sounds pretty interesting, and I’m always excited about character development, but like you say this also sounds rather slow, and contemporaries are as a genre already extremely slow for me … so maybe not? BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT’S SO ENTICING. I don’t knowwwww.


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