Welcome to July’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, David Arnold and his novel, Mosquitoland. After being uprooted from her home and mom in Cleveland, Ohio, Mary Iris Malone (Mim) is not okay. She hates living in Jackson, Mississippi with her father and stepmother. And now that all communication has been cut off with her mom, Mim is on the run to save her mom.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – Home is hard. Harder than reasons. It’s more than a storage unit for your life and its collections. It’s more than an address, or even the house you grew up in. People say home is where the heart is, but I think maybe home is the heart. Not a place or a time, but an organ, pumping life into my life.
Marcy – Mim remembers when her mom would give a homeless man money. She’d purposely go the long way to soccer practice so she could give the man three dollars. One day Mim’s dad was with them. He started complaining about how the lazy bum could get a job, when Mim’s mom rolled down the window and handed Reggie three dollars.
Later, just before bed, I asked her if Dad was mad that she gave three bucks to Reggie. She said no, but I knew better. I asked if Dad was right, if Reggie was nothing but a lazy drunk. Mom said some homeless folk were like that, but she didn’t think Reggie was one of them. She said if he were, she would give him three bucks. She said it wasn’t her job to pick which ones were genuinely starving and which ones were faking it.
“Help is help to anyone, Mary. Even if they don’t know they’re asking for it.”
I said that made a whole lot of sense, because it did.
And it still does.
Here’s the thing, Iz: my mom needs help right now. And I know it, even if she doesn’t.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - I jog up to cement stairs, unable to hold back a smile of my young adult life. This detour has already paid for itself.
Marcy –This paragraph speaks for itself.
I am tired of being alone.
“You need help?” Walt’s quiet voice brings me back to the now, the real, the detour.
I, Mary Iris Malone, smile at the bright new moon. Wiping away my tears, I wonder if things are finally changing, “Yeah, Walt, I might.”
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – I chose Mom as my favorite secondary character. She has so many lines that made her seem to me, so carefree, so down-to-Earth. Mim, the main character, is worried her mother is going to be mad after she got into a fight in school defending a friend.
“There are worse fates than being slow-witted,” she says. “You broke that other kids nose, right? The one who made fun of Ricky?” I say, “yes ma’am, I did.” “Good,” she says, taking another bite.
Marcy – This novel has an amazing lineup of characters. I would choose Walt for his innocence and love of life. He has down’s syndrome and has been abandoned by his father but has an amazing outlook on life.
“Ready to swim?”
Walt looks up at me with wide-eyed enthusiasm. He’s shirtless now, holding a flashlight and sporting a pair of cutoff daisy dukes. The Cubs hat and the green Chucks he’s still wearing as well as that infectious smile that sets my heart aflame. It’s the same smile my dad and I used when we made waffles, only Walt’s is magnified somehow, like I-don’t-know-what…the Belgian waffle version or something.
“Here,” he says, offering a wad of denim. “My backup pair.”
Hopping down from the boulder, I take the shorts and hold them out in front of me. They’re a little wide in the waist, and far shorter than any shorts I’ve ever worn.
Walt throws his finger in the air, spins on his heels, “This way to my pool!”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – As often happens, Marcy and I choose similar favorite lines. She has chosen one below that I had picked, so I will choose another. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory why I chose this, as it paints a pretty vivid picture.
ED’S PLACE: CHICKEN-N-GAS The image in my brain is unsettling to say the least: Ed, a disgruntled Vietnam vet, stands over a stove with two ashy cigarillos hanging from either side of his mouth; he’s stirring a giant pot of his famous chicken-petroleum soup.
Marcy – Mim gets wiser as she gets closer to seeing her mom.
I swear, the older I get, the more I value bad examples over good ones. It’s a good thing, too, because most people are egotistical, neurotic, self-absorbed peons, insistent on wearing near-sighted glasses in a far-sighted world. And it’s the exact sort of myopic ignorance that has led to my groundbreaking new theory. I call it Mim’s Theorem of Monkey See Monkey Don’t, and what it boils down to is this: it is my belief that there are some people whose sole purpose of existence is to show the rest of us how not to act.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave – This line of dialogue from Walt, a homeless, mentally disabled young man, made me laugh when I read it. It easily cinched my favorite when I read the end of the novel.
“Yes,” says Walt, going back to his butterfly. “I’ll remember the rendezvouski.”
Marcy – Words of wisdom from Mim’s mom:
My mother was the greatest alarm clock of all time. Every morning, without fail, she threw back the curtains to let the sun in, and always, she said the same thing.
“Have a vision, Mary, unclouded by fear.”
— ABA Indies Introduce Debut Authors and New Voices title
— A Junior Library Guild selection
To read more about David Arnold and his debut novel, Mosquitoland, please go to: