2 – 2.25 stars
The bestselling author of Mosquitoland brings us another batch of unforgettable characters in this tragicomedy about first love and devastating loss.
Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.
This is a story about:
1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.
I usually don’t read books with awkwardly-formatted summaries, or summaries that describe a list full of very specific events, but I had to make an exception for the Kids Of Appetite because of Aliza’s glowing review. The fact that Liz and I share similar opinions on many books only added to my anticipation, and I really, really wanted to love this one. Of course, these feelings slightly diminished after realizing the author was David Arnold, the author of Mosquitoland. I gave Mosquitoland a try a while back, but abandoned it because I simply wasn’t in the mood for it in the time, and by ‘it’ I mean a pretentious, uber-quirky colossal mess. It was only after reading a few pages of the Kids Of Appetite had I recognized the same bothersome elements from Mosquitoland, and it was at the moment I had already realized that this book was not for me. I pushed on of course, but I struggled throughout, and unfortunately I am in the minority with this one.
I apologize, Liz.
Kids Of Appetite follows Vic, a sixteen-year old boy that unexpectedly stumbles into five, free-wheeling kids and goes on a journey with them to spread his father’s ashes. They discover a number of things along the way about themselves and their individual stories, and form a tight bond with each other. I would say it’s a very simplistic premise that has the potential to explore deeper themes and messages through several events, but Arnold decides to take the John-Green-esque route and not be clear on anything that wants to be said. Most of the parts that make up this book are just unbelievable, and this includes most of the dialogue, characters, and writing in general. Can’t say I’m surprised.
Writing: I’m even sure if I can consider the ‘writing’ in Kids Of Appetite as ‘writing’. It’s more of a collection of random, barely used words thrown together to create an obscure meaning that nobody can actually understand but pretend to because it’s supposed to symbolize something greater and bigger. Let me give y’all a taste:
simultaneous extreme opposites
inevitability of corresponding units
Cool in the Traditional Sense
tenacious molecules of chance
etc, etc, etc.
Lowkey, I would have appreciated a term glossary instead of the character glossary in the beginning of the book. These phrases are repeated consistently throughout the book, and I’m sure the reader is meant to utilize them and understand why they are being used in a certain context, but I just found it obnoxious. Real human beings don’t talk like this, and especially teenagers don’t talk like this. There are actually many emotional themes embedded in this book, such as losing loved ones, accepting yourself, loving someone, and discovering who you are and who you want to surround yourself with. Unfortunately, the quirkiness and unrealistic events throughout the novel don’t add or amplify the emotions that are supposed to be evoked through these themes, in fact, these aspects only take away from it.
Characters: I understand that Arnold wanted to show the bond between the kids after facing such terrible circumstances before, and how friendships and positive relationships can heal and sooth toxic situations and relationships. However, so much of that is covered up with unrealistic dialogue and unrealistic characters in general. Vic is actually an interesting and unexplored type of character, as he has a rare disorder called Moebius Syndrome, which is characterized by facial paralysis. Not many authors decide to do this, and I appreciated that, as it made the novel more realistic. But, while Vic isn’t one of those characters that has an opinion on everything (*cough Mim cough*), his thought process and personality was really difficult to swallow, as he’s constantly rattling off random-ass terms and phrases, as well as going off on tangents that involve Mad and her perfectness. Mad herself is actually a cool character, and seemed to be the most in touch with her past and struggles she continues to face. Baz and Nzuzi are interesting and admirable characters too, and I’ve honestly got nothing to say on Coco, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll let you decide for yourself. Anyway, I’ve got sympathy for these characters but they could have been so much more if they weren’t wasted on being solely eccentric or quirky.
Those last three chapters: The only time I felt somewhat emotional or hollowed out was toward the end of this book, you know, when it all goes to shit. I was honestly skimming by that point, but the events that took place were said in such a chaotic, fuzzy, and unbelievable manner, and this is a good thing. Everything was so vivid, I felt like I was living it. This part of the novel was also the only time where I fully got to see the backstory and feeling behind the individual characters, and I really wish that was the case throughout the entire book.
Fans of John Green and Mosquitoland will probably eat this book up, but Kids Of Appetite was personally not my cup of tea. It’s disappointing because Arnold comes up with such interesting concepts, but the execution is definitely not meant for contemporary fans like me.