This one was a major departure for me and I feel like I am pretty happy about that. I had seen several articles lauding this book for its originality and interest as Arnold wrote a bestseller entitled “Mosquitoland” (which I have not read) and this was a highly anticipated follow up. Our story centers on Vic who is coming to terms with the loss of his father to cancer. Vic also has a very rare neurological disorder that causes him to have significant facial paralysis (cannot smile, close his eyes, cry, etc). This detail is really not all that crucial to the story, it is however alluded to frequently. Vic falls in with a gang of misfits really and from there the story pays homage to “The Outsiders” quite a bit.
The writing is very quirky which I did see that many people had an issue with. I saw at least one very prominent book blogger who did not finish the book because of the style. It did take a minute for me to get into it but once I was in, the book moved very fast… to the point where I felt like it ended and I has just scratched the surface. I rated this book a three based on several factors. One is that I felt like the storyline went too fast for all of the characters and I did not get to “know” them as much as I wish I had. The relationships were really beautiful and interesting and I wish I would have had more time with each character. I also did struggle to keep focused on the point of view and who was speaking at the time. I had times where I thought it was Vic and then had to go back and saw it was someone else.
The genius of the book is that all the typical tropes of YA are represented (young love, kids who are just so misunderstood, kids who talk like they are 40 and philosophers) but it didn’t feel contrived or forced. Many of these tropes were background to the larger story about loss and moving on in the face of great pain and grief and also just learning how to be a good human in a world that can be a soul sucking nightmare. I absolutely recommend this book, it’s definitely worth a read!