If you’ve had your ear to the ground about new YA releases this year, then chances are you’ve heard of David Arnold’s debut novel Mosquitoland. It’s generated quite the buzz and as someone who was lucky enough to get her hands on a copy, I can see why.
The novel follows Mim, a young girl who has moved with her dad and stepmom from Ohio to Mosquitoland, aka Mississippi. She’s not a fan of her new locale and, after learning that her mother is ill, hops a Greyhound bus and makes her way back to Cleveland.
“For the record, I don’t think Mim hates Mississippi so much as she hates what it represents: the people she’s with while she’s there, the things going on in her life which happen to coincide with her living in this new place. When Mim hits the road, it’s not because she wants to get away from Mississippi, so much as she wants to find her real home,” said David Arnold.
While Mim ends up traveling across the country, Arnold originally had other ideas.
“When I first started writing Mosquitoland, it was about a kid’s first day at a new school,” said Arnold. “Once I realized the heart of Mim’s story was in Cleveland, I knew I had to get her out of Mississippi, and voila… road trip. But I think that this ‘new kid’ mentality stays with Mim, lingering throughout her expedition.”
Like many YA novels, Mosquitoland tells the story of a young girl finding out about life, love, and most importantly, finding herself. Mim meets a cast of characters on her trip and each one plays an integral part in her journey.
“I think the majority of Mim’s personal growth has very little to do with geography, and a lot more to do with the people she meets along the way. Each of them, for better or worse, heavily impact who she thought she was, and force her to see herself for who she actually is.”
This character growth was important to Arnold from the get go. Road trips novels has seen a rise in popularity recently but they’ve been a part of the YA bracket for years. Though Arnold speaks for himself, many would agree that his reasoning is why so many readers are drawn to road trips.
“I won’t speak for other readers, but I think part of why I’m drawn to journey-style storytelling is because it’s an outward display of something every character goes through: how to get from point A to point B. You could have an entire book set in one room, and that aspect of storytelling would not change. Or at least, it shouldn’t.”
Much like Mim, Arnold has gone on a journey himself. Though he may be a published writer now, he didn’t anticipate that life would lead him here.
“My mom actually brought out an old paper I wrote back in 3rd or 4th grade, where I said I’d like to be a professional athlete, a paleontologist, or, if nothing else panned out, I guess I wouldn’t mind writing. So there you have it. It was third behind playing center field for the Reds, and living out my dream of being Alan Grant from Jurassic Park.”
While 2015 has been a great year and will continue to be an amazing year for YA releases, Arnold’s already got another slated for release next year. But he admits that none of this would’ve happened had it not been for his support system.
“My wife, who has encouraged me at every forehead-meet-table moment. My three year-old who pushes me to be a better father, writer, human. My parents and in-laws and brothers and grandparents who have all supported me through this process.”