Mosquitoland by David Arnold

So upon finishing this book, I didn't know how I felt about Mosquitoland. There were parts of it I really liked: Mim and Walt's characters specifically were my favorites. But there were parts of it that I really didn't like: the bus accident, her mother's reveal. So I went I read some reviews, which is usually something I don't do until I've written my review because I don't want anyone to sway my opinion. But I needed to know if other people were as torn as I was.

Sadly, that was not the case. People either loved the book or they hated it. The people who loved the book loved the same things I did, just more than I did. The people who hated really did not like it at all and had nothing nice to say about it; some of them I felt like they were being picky and just wanted to hate everything. After finishing different reviews, I decided that the book was just ehh. Nothing was downright horrible, but it isn't a book I'll remember for the rest of my life.

As for it being a novel for Mental Health Month, I feel like it's a reach. Yes, Walt has down syndrome and her mother is in a mental health facility, but their needs and problems are more like tertiary plot lines in the book. A third character who Mim thinks might be schizophrenic, but he plays a small part in the book and is negatively portrayed, and I'm just not sure how that makes me feel.

5 Sentence Plot

Mary Iris Malone, Mim, has gone through some major changes in her life as of late: her parents divorced; her dad remarried a Denny's waitress; they moved cross country to Mississippi; they are now expecting a baby; and to top it off, her mother has completely stopped reaching out to her. When Mim learns her mother is sick, she takes off on a road trip that includes buses, hitchhiking, and riding in a truck with new friends, Walt and Beck. On this trip, Mim learns that life can be extremely messy and that people aren't always what they seem. In this coming of age novel, Mim deals with being assaulted, different forms of mental illnesses, and being let down. In the end, Mim knows that even though she still needs to get used to her new life, she feels that she will be able to accept the changes.

What I Liked

  • I love road trip books and seeing the country/world through their eyes.
  • I know a lot of people don't like Mim, even ones who liked the book; they find her rude, crass, blunt, immature, and she is. But I really liked it. There were a lot of internal dialogues, or even ones with other characters, where she said things that I have thought/said about different people and situations. A lot of the time, it was like reading my own internal thoughts. I definitely judge people by their names.
  • I liked the slow reveal that Aunt Izzy had actually killed herself and isn't the Izzy that Mim is writing letters to; she is writing to her unborn baby sister, who is also going to be named Izzy, well, Isabelle. Usually, I can see things like that coming, but this one left me surprised.

What I Didn't Like
  • Beck sounds like the perfect guy, for a girl who isn't 16. I know she says that she acknowledges that 5 years is a big difference right now, and I definitely agree, and all that happens is a kiss on the forehead, but it creeps me out. If a person 5 years older than my oldest niece, who is 18, what spending abnormal amounts of time with her and having all these huge life discussions, I'd tell her to pump the breaks and find someone closer to her own age. When you're older, 5 years isn't as big a difference, but until both parties are over the age of 21, there are still a lot of differences.
  • I hate that Caleb, who is portrayed as schizophrenic, is a "bad" guy. Can people who suffer from mental illnesses do wrong things? Yes. But you know what, so can people who are healthy. I don't think it's right to play into the stigma that mentally ill people are just one bad episode away from attacking someone.
  • As much as I love Mim, her running away when life got too hard for her is not right. She is 16! She's lucky she threw up on Poncho Guy because so much could have happened there. If any of my nieces ran away, they wouldn't hear the end of it from me, let alone their parents. 
  • Aside from relating to Mim's sarcasm, she isn't a relatable character. She's all over the place. 
  • Mim and Beck refer to Walt as their "pet" when they take him to the vet when he is sick. I definitely understand taking him to the vet since it was the only place open, but he has down syndrome, that does not make him a pet. I know it's a tasteless joke by a 16 year old who doesn't know better, but having known a few people who have it, it makes me nauseous thinking of someone making a comment like that to one of them. 
  • The bus accident just happens. One minute, Mim is in the bathroom putting on her war paint, and then all of a sudden, Mim is wading through bodies, there are flashing lights, and the bus is on it's side. I had to go back and make sure I didn't miss something. I wasn't the only one who had this issue. I felt like a chunk of the chapter was taken out.

  • We never really find out why Mim's mother is in the mental health facility. I would guess depression, but I honestly have no clue, and I couldn't find anything online through reviews or Wiki's to give me an answer either.
Overall Thoughts

This was the last book on my Mental Health Awareness book list, and I was disappointed. It had a lot of potential, and even though it wasn't a total flop, it will definitely be sold on my next trip to HPB.

In regards to Mental Health Awareness, there were different characters and different illnesses discussed. A big one that is revealed over the course of the book is that Aunt Izzy hung herself and Mim found her. This happened when Mim was 5. So for 11 years, Mim has been working through the death of her aunt, who seemed to be one of her favorite people. Another big one is Mim's mother being in a mental health facility. It isn't discussed exactly why, but I would think maybe depression; it's what it is alluded to. Also, Mim's father is extremely worried about Mim following in her aunts footsteps and has been taking her to see a therapist for quite some time. When he takes her to a new one, he suggests a prescription medicine that both Mim and her mother are against. But her father will do anything to protect her from something they don't even know she has. Although I never discredit medicine if it is needed, I do feel that some people have become very dependent upon it; or, in the case of one of my friends, her doctor had her on a dosage that was way too strong, only increasing her symptoms; when she switched insurances and doctors is when she found this out. Luckily, her new doctor worked with her to get her down to a healthy amount.

I know I bashed this book a lot, and I always hate writing negative reviews, because I know what it is to put your everything into something. And this book did have some wonderful thing. David Arnold is a wonderful writer; aside from the bus crash scene, I really love his writing style. And for me, Mim is an amazing character. I did see a good deal of growth in her throughout the book, and as I have said multiple times, I love her sarcasm; she says exactly what I would say (although it worries me that not a lot of people like her because of this).

Rating: 4/10
Pages: 368 (paperback)
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction


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