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Immediately, this book had three things going for it – a great first sentence, the fact that it is a road trip narrative, and the Greyhound bus that the protagonist is sitting atop on the front cover is taking her to Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown). The first sentence is – “I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay”. In fact, that single sentence is the only one in the first chapter titled A Thing’s Not a Thing Until You Say It Out Loud. Mim Malone is 16 years old, she lives with her father and new step-mother in Jackson, Mississippi (aka Mosquitoland), and her mother is very sick in Cleveland. During her happier “Young Fun” days, she lived with her mother and dad in Ashland, Ohio, so when she decides to get on the Greyhound for Cleveland, 947 miles away, she is sort of going home. Of course, often the theme of YA novels that deal with divorce teaches you can’t revisit the past, even if you make it to Cleveland in time for Labor Day, a day Mim and mom made special together when times were good.
The sections of the novel are marked by cities and miles to go. Passages of Mim’s cheeky first person narration are interspersed with letters she write to Aunt Isabel, in which she refers to herself as Our Heroine and signs off Mary Iris Malone _ Mother-effing Mother-Saver. Of course she meets a cast of cleverly drawn characters, of course she has scrapes with good and terrible luck. Of course her father and step-mom are worried sick and intervene. Those details are pretty predictable. What isn’t so predicable is Mim’s wisdom and raw honesty. As she says, “Opening scenes are funny, because you never know which elements will change over time and which will stay the same. The world was, and is, mad.”
I loved Mim, and although this book is recommended for 12 and up, I loved this book. David Arnold had made a brilliant debut! He is also a musician and his book trailer offers a great sneak peak at the story and his musical talents.
I close too many book reviews “If I was still teaching” but I would truly put this on a short list of books to preview for Book Circles and class reads. I want to meet Mim and sit next to her on the bus. Even if I’m already in Cleveland.