Publishing Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Pages: 336 pages
Young Adult Contemporary
The Premise: Before I get into the premise, I want to start off with two quotes from the book which I felt really set the pace for me (I received an ARC, so I am quoting from an uncorrected text).
"Because I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay" (23).
"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster,my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange" (41).
This charming book follows Mary Iris Malone, or as some call her: Mim, as she travels 947 miles from Jackson, Mississippi to see her mom in Cleveland, Ohio. We learn quite early on that her mother and father have been divorced for sometime and that she has been separated from her mother. Her father has remarried another woman and one day, when she overhears a conversation that her mother is sick, she decides to grab a coffee tin of money and pack her bag (throws in a bag of potato chips while she's at it) and buys a ticket for a bus to take her to her mother. The book follows Mim on this journey that is sort of like a modern-day version of James Joyce's Ulysses, in a sense where she encounters different and strange people along the way, and on her journey, she kind of discovers her sense of self, and learns more about her family.
My overall thoughts and review: I am going to start off by saying that I LOVED this book. It can be quite a difficult narrative at times, because it moves quickly from present time (Mim on her journey), to the past through Mim's flashbacks, or to the past through Mim's letters to Isabel in her diary. We get some new characters along the way like Walt which also can make the narrative a little difficult to follow along, but this is such a wonderful book. It handles mental illness in a really great way and is able to tackle the bigger issues, slowly, but in a way that is understandable for the reader. I think ultimately, this book encourages the reader to reflect a lot on themselves while reading it and because the text is so accessible, with a character like Mim, who you really love reading from, the reader in a sense, situates him/herself as Mim during various moments. The book also tackled some darker subject matter, taboo topics really, and I won't get into those because the risk of spoiling, but I think Arnold handled it very well. It kept me on the edge of my seat constantly and I just wanted to know more and more as I turned each page. When I got to the final page, I was quite sad to say goodbye to Mim, Walt and Beck but I really loved how Arnold concluded everything and brought everything full circle. This is not a traditional Young Adult Contemporary by any means and I really felt like it pushed boundaries and approached difficult subject matter in a way that wasn't "scary" or "offputting" to the reader. His narrative style definitely reminded me of Andrew Smith's writing who I am a big fan of! All in all, it is a lovely book and I definitely would recommend it!
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)
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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Penguin Canada (Penguin Young Readers Group is an imprint of Penguin Group) for consideration/review. All opinions are my own.