Wednesday, November 30, 2016

KIDS OF APPETITE BY DAVID ARNOLD - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

Today I am back with another book review, this time it is Kids of Appetite by David Arnold.


Much like Arnold's debut novel Mosquitoland, this is a quirky book that you will finish and not be sure how you feel about it.

I read this book in the span of approximately 3 and a half hours, but really I'm not sure if that is because of the book itself, or the fact that I wanted to have read it.

Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book, but I also felt it was a little, I guess the best word that comes to mind is pretentious. It is very aware of itself, and I think that takes away from the story.

Ok, so the basic synopsis is the story opening up with our main character Victor "Vic." He has recently lost his father and while he is still trying to cope with everything, one night at dinner, his mom's boyfriend proposes. And Vic freaks out, grabbing his father's urn and heads for the door. He meets Madeline "Mad" (you'll notice that almost no one in this story goes by their full, given name) and she takes him to the butcher shop where he spends the night. The next morning, Mad comes back with the "leader" of their group Baz (not his real name), Zuz (also not his real name) and Coco (pretty sure that's her real name) and they go to their 'home,' a greenhouse in the local orchard.

Basically they spend a week together, Vic falls in love with Mad, Mad's uncle is killed, and on the eighth day, Vic, Mad and Baz waltz into the police station with the answer to Uncle Lester's murder.

Premise wise, I think this book is spot on. It was an interesting story of modern day homelessness and the characters were (at least racially) a little bit diverse.

Baz and Zuz are brothers, outgrown from the foster system and trying to make it on their own after the death of their mother, father and sister during the war in the Congo. We get glimpses of their past, mostly towards the end, and obviously you feel bad for them, but their relationship within the group feels almost forced. Baz is 27, and Zuz, 22, and while I get they are helping out so much with people who need it, their current group of two 16 year olds and an 11 year old is a bit odd.

We get both perspectives from Vic and Mad throughout the story. Mad's parents died in a drunk driving accident and she lives with her Uncle (dad's brother - that's important) and her maternal grandmother who has dementia. Mad offers commentary throughout the storyline, and while I enjoyed her notes on The Outsiders, I didn't find her character narration to be extremely necessary, especially at the beginning of the book.

I think my biggest problem with this book was the fact that Vic ran away and was immediately adopted into the group. Not because he shouldn't have been accepted, but because I felt like compared to the other characters, he needed that group the least. He had (at least one) parent who, while maybe wasn't really listening to him, wasn't abusive or an alcoholic. I suppose this just shows how much worse off the others are, but I think for me it made his problems seem petty. Baz and Zuz survived and are still haunted by the war in Africa, Coco is an orphan with no one else to turn to, and Mad lives with her alcoholic uncle because she doesn't want her grandmother to suffer in her place. While Vic definitely does not have it easy, I felt like his place in the Kids of Appetite could have been given to someone worse off.

I also wasn't really a fan of the relationship between Mad and Vic. I mean I get they've seen each other around before, but they fell in love in a week. Maybe I'm a pessimistic, jaded, realist, but I have a hard time believing that.

While I did appreciate the fact that Vic suffered from a rare neurological disorder, something like this physical disorder you don't see a lot of in fiction, especially YA fiction, I feel like it wasn't really a major part of the story. I mean it was fairly well fleshed out, and there were countless sentences where Vic "wipes his leaky mug," I just felt like the story would have been pretty much the same without it. I guess it connects Vic with his father, he was always telling him that there is beauty in asymmetry, and I suppose it makes Vic's life seem less "picture perfect."

Overall, I guess I didn't really love this book. I mean I enjoyed the mystery of figuring out who killed Mad's uncle, but I think in general I had too many issues with it.