David Arnold


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Mosquitoland Summary

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Mosquitoland, a young adult novel by David Arnold, tells the story of Mary Iris Malone, or Mim as she is more commonly known, as she departs on a cross-country solo journey via Greyhound bus in order to save her mother, who is sick in Mim’s former home in Cleveland, Ohio. The story takes place through both Mim’s journal entries to a character named Iz, and through the narration of her adventure as she travels from Mississippi to her mother’s house in Ohio.

Mim is sitting outside the principal’s office at her new school in Mississippi. She has been struggling to keep it together since her parent’s divorce three months ago. She hates her new stepmother, whom she believes entered her family too soon after her parents split. She hates her new home in Mississippi and misses her mother, whom she hasn’t had any contact with since she was shipped off to live with her dad and stepmother.

Sitting outside the principal’s office, Mim overhears the principal talking about her mother’s illness. Mim hadn’t known that her mother was sick. She is determined to track her down and help her get well, certain that her father had abandoned her in her time of need. Mim leaves school, returns to her father’s house, steals a jar of cash that her stepmother leaves around for emergencies, and buys herself a Greyhound bus ticket north to Cleveland, Ohio before she can think twice about whether or not this plan is actually a good idea.

On the bus, Mim meets many strange and interesting characters. She sits next to a kind old lady named Arlene, whom she feels a kinship with, and falls hopelessly in love with a cute college student named Beck, whom she doesn’t interact with much but whom she admires from afar. The many characters Mim meets, each with his or her own personal mission, strengthen Mim’s goal to help her mother.

The first negative incident on Mim’s road trip is a terrifying encounter with a creepy older man who traps her in a bathroom and attempts to sexually assault her. Mim forces herself to throw up on him, which disgusts the man, who glares at her for the rest of the journey. Mim is afraid to say anything about the man, who later assaults another girl on the bus.

Mim is involved in a horrific bus crash, so violent that some passengers die. Mim is traumatized by the death she witnesses. She finds herself stuck in Kentucky, wandering aimlessly until she meets Walt, a homeless boy with Downs Syndrome whom she stays with at his makeshift camp. After she and Walt experience trouble and find themselves in a police station, Mim is reunited with Beck, who appears to save the day. Beck has access to an old, broken down truck that he, Walt, and Mim use to travel to their next destination on the way to Mim’s mother in Ohio.

As the story goes on, Mim reveals more about her family’s history and the character Iz, who turns out to be her aunt, who committed suicide years before. Mental illness becomes a prominent thread in the story, as Mim discovers dark secrets about her own mother that she hadn’t known before, and begins to question herself too.

Ultimately, Beck and Mim find comfort in each other and take responsibility for the lovable Walt as they journey toward Mim’s mother. Though their efforts don’t turn out quite the way they had anticipated, as she embarks on her journey Mim comes to terms with her own demons, traumas, and the reasons she might struggle day-to-day, many of which are out of her control. The result is a heart-warming and realistic story about a young girl learning how to cope with the dark parts of life through deep, sincere relationships with people who love her, despite her flaws.

David Arnold is the best-selling author of a number of books for young adults, including Mosquitoland, Kids of Appetite, and The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, which was recently been optioned for film by Paramount. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife and son. Mosquitoland has received dozens of awards and accolades, including NPR’s Best Book of 2015 and a 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize winner, among others.