Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: "Kids of Appetite" by David Arnold

As I was devouring (no pun intended) David Arnold's sensational new book, Kids of Appetite, I started pondering the existential question, "Why do I read?" As you'd probably imagine there isn't one easy answer to that question—at different times I may read for entertainment, escape, information, motivation, or to be moved, and quite often it's a combination of more than one of those.

While I didn't set out to read Kids of Appetite to be moved, this story of the bonds of friendship, preserving your own identity, overcoming tragedy, giving yourself (and others) a second chance, and the jumble of emotions which accompany first love absolutely moved and dazzled me. This is truly a special book, full of emotion, surprise, and beautiful storytelling, and it has found its way into my heart.

"We are all part of the same story, each of us different chapters. We may not have the power to choose setting or plot, but we can choose what kind of character we want to be."

Things haven't been the same since Victor Benucci's father died two years ago. Afflicted with Moebius syndrome, a neurological disorder that primarily causes facial paralysis, Vic is unable to blink or show much facial expression at all, which causes him to be ridiculed and treated as if he's stupid, which he most certainly isn't. He finds it difficult to make friends, and he misses his father tremendously, as he introduced Vic to the beauty of asymmetry in art. But as Vic's mother is trying to rebuild her life, he doesn't know how he fits in.

In the midst of an emotional crisis one night, Vic runs into Madeline Falco, a beautiful girl he's seen around a few times before. Mad has more than her own share of tragedy to overcome, but she recognizes in Vic a kindred spirit in need of help. She introduces him to her three companions, with whom she shares a unique family-like existence. They offer to help Vic with one major challenge he has undertaken—to solve the riddle his father left for his mother regarding where to scatter his ashes. But as Vic recognizes he can't hide forever, he is completely drawn to Mad, and he finds that she is as much in need of rescue as he is.

"I think Mad saw in books what I saw in art: the weightless beauty of the universe."

The book alternates between chapters narrated by Vic and Mad, and also shifts between the present, during which a police investigation is taking place, and eight days prior, when Vic meets Mad and her friends. While there are some twists in the plot that are given away in the book's synopsis, some are not, and part of this book's beauty is in letting the story unfold for you, so I'll stop with my plot summary.

I honestly cannot say enough great things about this book. While it's classified as YA, it definitely doesn't feel that way except for the fact that the main characters are teenagers. It's just so well-told, so moving, and anyone who has struggled with loss, feelings of powerlessness, and being ostracized for being different when inherently you're the same will identify with it. I haven't read Arnold's first book, Mosquitoland, yet, but you can bet I will.

It's amazing to think that there are still three months left in 2016 and I've already read so many incredible books which have left indelible impressions on me. Kids of Appetite is definitely one of those.

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