Note: I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
David Arnold’s YA debut, Mosquitoland, was a great tale with a well thought-out narrative and memorable characters, with the added bonus of an epic road trip. With Kids of Appetite, Arnold sets up an even more electic cast of characters and an intriguing narrative, meta and self-referential in its execution.
The story is told from two parallel perspectives, Mad and Vic. We begin at the end, as the blurb suggests, with each of our protagonists being held in some sort of police interrogation room, the detectives patiently listening to each side of the story. The Kids of Appetite themselves are the group that Mad is a fully-fledged member of, and Vic enters this world at the beginning of his story.
It becomes apparent that the author is unabashedly paying homage to The Outsiders, the cast of kids establishing themselves as social outcasts who don’t fit into mainstream society. Mad reads the classic book obsessively, no dount relating to it, while each of the kids has their own outlandish quirk or background. Zuz, seemingly a mute who clicks fingers to communicate; Coco, a young, foul-mouthed firecracker; Mad, with a deep secret she keeps to herself; Baz, the leader of the group with a frightening war-torn backstory; and Vic, a young man with insecurities arising from a neurological condition that causes facial paralysis and his own personal trauma. Whether or not you like this book depends partly on how you connect with these characters.
The narrative itself is a series of vignettes with an overarching goal, related to Vic which I won’t spoil. We meet more and more of the characters these kids have come into contact with, and it becomes apparent that these kids do live up to their title. They are kids hungry to do something with their lives, to achieve something, but also to dream. Most of all, the author shows them as kids who are honest, and loyal.
‘They usually said out loud what most adults only thought, which part of me admired.’
I enjoyed Kids of Appetite, mainly because of the character Mad, who I found interesting and I could empathise with her. The plot is a little slight in places but picks up momentum past the halfway point. Parts of the story are sweet in their depiction of friendship and love also, and it’s an interesting situation to put kids in, where they’re more or less in charage of their own destiny, and not aimless. Fans of David Arnold’s debut will enjoy Kids of Appetite, which is really a spiritual sequel in a way, sharing as it does themes and atmosphere.