The name of our hero is Mary Iris Malone, or Mim as an acronym, which she has adapted to so well, her father can't call her that ever. Mim is mad at the world after her father divorced her mother and she and her father moved all the way to Mississipi from Cleveland, Ohio. And her stepmother Kathy is not the most considerate either. Also, her temper tantrums cause her father and the school principal to discuss medication. She also knows her mother is now sick. Perhaps fatally sick. In one desperate act of defiance, Mim decides to steal a coffee cup full of Kathy's savings, pack up a small backpack and take the next bus that leads the closest back to Ohio. And she's trying to make it before Labor Day, which is four days away. And as she travels with different people, different means of transportation, and different new friends, Mary Iris Malone finds out it's time to discover what defines her as okay and why she says she's not okay, all the while writing letters to someone named Isabel.
So, I'll repeat: A road trip book is not one that immediately turns me on. But it actually did by the first 30 pages when Mim makes a terrific friend on the bus. Have you ever been on a trip and some stranger walks up to you, greets you and starts talking to you to pass the time? When that happens to me, I feel a joy because I feel like someone people can be comfortable around. And I'm also a sucker for LGBT themes in storytelling and this one presented one too.
Mosquitoland also shouldn't work, because in order for this trip to work, Mim has to visit motels and restaurants like a normal person on an adventure, and that doesn't generally bring a chase through the pages. But it does in this case becuase David Arnold manages to make pretty much every setting interesting because it feels like we've been there before. This is also a very emotional novel, and not heavily romanticized. And what I like about these sorts of storylines is they're easy to tell yet usually win me over, once again, because it's relatable.
Look, I'll try to stop being repetitive. But basically, what I was expecting was some sort of travelogue full of unnecessary details of stuff Mim sees through the window of a bus. The book switches that idea with something that involves Mim's phone going off with numerous unsaved messages, and sets us up for an ending of connection, confrontation and heartbreak. Mim also has to do all sorts of grown-up stuff that she's never had to confront before, like attempting to rent cars and almost getting raped, making it even suitable for it to be a standalone. What makes it even more suitable is Mim is doing all of this illegally. If she had permission from her parents, or parent and stepmother to go all this way it would be nowhere near as interesting. But David Arnold does it the right way and takes advantage.
The book also even made me chuckle a little bit. Very few books bring a smile to my face almost every chapter with something nice and cheeky to take away the tension and remind us that this is a book about a girl passing the time and racing against the clock. Sometimes the writing can get a little repetitive, and we get it enough that Mary Iris Malone aka Mim is not okay, she admits, and there was a scene where I was a little confused with the identity of a cute dude on a bus, but like Dorothy Must Die and Crusher, this is a 3/4 book that is a very strong one. Generally a 3/4 in my grading system is a B. In this case it's a B+.