David Arnold has created an unforgettable main character in Mim. Readers don't need to relate to her or even like her to feel invested in her story, which takes bizarre, heartbreaking, but always revelatory twists and turns. In Arnold's crisp prose, Mim comes alive in all her flawed glory. A loner whose best friend is her mysteriously absent mother, she would love to be played by Kate Winslet in the imaginary filmed version of her life, but she later amends this choice. She categorizes the kinds of suburban teens who act, dress, and think the same as the "Generics," who don't treasure fierce individuality the way Mim does; in her letters, she's as beautifully damaged and in need of hope and friendship as Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Laurel in Love Letters to the Dead.
So here's this puking, half-blind, unpredictable girl who hears voices in her head, and all she wants is to reach the one person in the world she knows loves her unconditionally. Along the way, she meets an older woman, Arlene, and two guys -- Walt, a homeless teenager with Down syndrome living under a bridge in Independence, Kentucky, and Beck, a gorgeous 20- or 21-year-old college guy who was on the bus with her -- who quickly become her close friends (and in the case of Beck, her unattainable love interest). They each make Mim reconsider the way she closes herself off to anyone other than her mother. This trip is anything but easy, and at times it's so hard and heavy you want to reach out and hug Mim (or slap her, or both), but there's hope, too -- a conversation you don't want to end, a chaste kiss full of promise, a new beginning after so many old hurts.