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Mosquitoland by David Arnold

A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN A THOUSAND MILES.

Topics of Interest: adventure, teenage angst, friendship, family, handicaps, mental illness, abuse, writing

Curriculum Connections: Writer’s Craft, Geography (U.S.)

Gender: F/M

Age: 14+

Blurb: Nothing quite says elementary school like a good ol’ yellow cheese wagon. We’ve all been on them at one time or another, whether it be daily for a commute to school or just once for a field trip to the History Museum.

Riding a school bus is a rite of passage that most kids have to endure. It’s smelly, bumpy, and, if you’re really unlucky, chock full of bullies who throw insults and spitballs at the weakest of the bunch. (And that’s what you have to look forward to after you’ve gone through the humiliation of finding a seat.)

Charter buses are a bit more civilized. They are smoother, cleaner, and the seats are taller which makes for a nice barrier against items zinged at your head. It’s really only your seatmates that you need to be wary of on these coaches.

Mim, in Mosquitoland, just wants to get home to Cleveland to help her sick mom. Dragged against her will by her father and step-mom to the swampland of Mississippi, Mim ditches school, steals her step-mom’s stash of cash, and high tails it to the bus depot where she catches the first Greyhound heading the right direction out of town.

Mim plans on spending the nearly thousand-mile trip writing letters, sleeping, and only occasionally speaking in a false English accent to the people who bug her. But her seatmates have a different plan for her (don’t they always?).

A lot can happen in a thousand miles: it starts with an overflowing toilet…and goes downhill from there.

Flavour: “One thing’s for sure: it’s starting to stink like whoa…. ‘Everything come out all right, dearie?’ asks Arlene….Looking down I see the Brits staring at me with their shirts pulled up over their noses. Gas mask-style. So that’s the way it’s gonna be. I’m on a bus full of smart-asses.” (36-37)

“The attractive pieces [of my face] are all there, but jumbled somehow. As if each facial feature stopped just short of its proper destination. I act like I don’t care, but I do. I always have. And my God, what wouldn’t I give to put the pieces together? But I’m a Picasso, not a Vermeer.” (57)

“You spend your life roaming the hillsides, scouring the four corners of the earth, searching desperately for just one person to get you. And I’m thinking, if you can find that, you’ve found home.” (250)

“[I]t is my belief that there are some people whose sole purpose of existence is to show the rest of us how not to act.” (264)

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