Sunday, October 02, 2016

Kids Of Appetite - David Arnold (Headline UK 20/09/16)

Sent to me by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Headline UK for this copy. 

Format & Page Count: Paperback, 326pp

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Audience: Readers looking for an adventurous, inspiring and emotional read.

Summed up in one word: Bereavement

Author Bio: David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. Previous jobs include freelance musician/producer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And chips. He believes fiercely in chips. His first novel was Mosquitoland. You can learn more at (Bio provided by Headline UK)

First Impression: Kids Of Appetite is a story about overcoming the grief of losing a loved one, and the lengths that some people will go to achieve that closure. It is also about love, both find new love and rekindling love that has gone astray. The book is described as a tragicomedy and I completely agree with that idea. I laughed (a lot!) and I cried my way through this book, the range of voices, circumstances and emotions in this book really blew me away. Truly inspiring.

In the Hackensack Police Department, Vic Benucci and his friend Mad are explaining how they found themselves wrapped up in a grisly murder. But in order to tell that story, they have to go way back...

It all started when Vic's dad died. Vic's dad was his best friend, and even now, two years later, he can't bring himself to touch the Untouchable Urn of Oblivion that sits in his front hall. But one cold December day, Vic falls in with an alluring band of kids that wander his New Jersey neighbourhood, including Mad, the girl who changes everything. Along with his newfound friendships comes the courage to open his father's urn, the discovery of the message inside, and the epic journey it sparks. (Synopsis from Kids of Appetite by David Arnold)


Story/Plot/Narration: Bruno Victor Benucci III misses his father. Dying from cancer 2 years ago, he has left a huge hole in Vic's life. Unable to come to terms with his passing, Vic repeatedly returns to conversations, moments and experiences that they shared together for comfort. Vic has struggled with emotion his whole life, suffering from Moebius Syndrome (which in Vic's case, paralyses the facial muscles) he has been unable to express himself outwardly. His father taught him to express himself in other ways, through language, art and music. Vic needs to say good bye.

The story begins in a police interrogation room, where Vic, Mad (first love) and Baz (leader of the group/murder suspect) are being held for questioning. The police want to know everything. Vic and Mad are happy to share, but they have to start from the beginning of the story, which began 8 days ago. Everything kicks of when:

Vic flees from his home with his father's urn in his arms. Everything is changing, his mother is moving on and he is not ready yet, he needs to say goodbye properly. Going to their favourite spot, Vic attempts to spread the ashes himself. Before he can, Mad (a girl he has seen around the neighbourhood) stops him. Upon opening the urn, Vic finds a Polaroid photo and a note, which details certain destinations that his father wanted his ashes to be placed. Vowing not to go home until it is done, he looks to Mad for help. Mad is part of a group of which she describes as 'undesirables' who roam the neighbourhood, helping those in need and looking after each other. Baz, Nzuzi and Coco make up the rest of the 'Kids of Appetite' and after asking Vic two very important questions, they offer to help him on his quest.

The rest of the story is an adventure, following a winding and unclear path. Vic has to dig deep into himself and his time with his father to find answers to the questions plaguing him. Each member of the group have their own troubled past and Vic's quest for peace will inevitably bring those wounds back into focus. Can Vic's strength encourage them to deal with their own lives? 

Genre/Writing Style: KOA is seen as a book for mid-teens but I see it as more than that. There is so much that a person can appreciate from a book like this, so in terms of content it gets top marks from me. Following Vic and Mad from a first person perspective was a great idea, being in Vic's head for too long could have been chaos, he is a thinker ;) Mad's perspective gave the reader an opportunity to see certain dialogue and scenarios from a fresh angle. David Arnold had a lot of fun writing this book, I know it is a tragic story, but his band of young characters was an opportunity for some great thoughts and dialogue and he made the most of it. Whether it is Vic answering his mother's text

"T'would be an honor and a privilege, good mother, for me to fulfill your Venetian salt-cured meat delivery requirements this fine evening. I shall return forthwith and posthaste. E'er your loving son, Victor. :):):)" (Quote from Kids of Appetite p13)

Or Coco with her lettuce rap (pure genius and/or reason enough to pick this book up right now!). It is always infectious when a writer is having a good time with their writing. In my opinion, the heart and soul of this book was the idea that everyone has a story, and David Arnold spent every word trying to convey that idea. Sadness, Loneliness, Violence, Illness, Humour, Love, Family, Death, each of these elements are present and they all have a voice. This book is charming, hilarious and youthful. It is also existential, philosophical and emotional.

Characters: Oh my goodness...I could talk about these characters for hours. But as usual I going to do one liners, saves bogging everyone down in overbearing text. Though I think it might annoy people too, if it does, please let me know in the comments. Anyway...:

Vic (misses his dad, loves music, art and Mad. On a quest. Interesting mannerisms and body/verbal language)
Mad (wants to save her Jamma (grandmother), finds Vic fascinating and attractive. Uses Venn diagrams to identify problems)
Baz (Brotherly, Fatherly, came from the Republic of Congo with Nzuzi)
Nzuzi (Baz's younger brother, doesn't talk, just clicks.)
Coco (11 year old whirl wind, passion for stories, ice cream and rapping)
Vic's Father (Inspiration, Motivation, Love, Purpose and Driving Force)

Setting: Set in Hackensack, New Jersey USA. The town itself does not really define any characters or events in the book. The locations that the gang are taken to throughout the duration of their mission are pretty special, all relating to a specific part of Vic's parents relationship. The 'Kids of Appetite' have a strong presence in the town as well, helping local businesses and members of the community in exchange for their help.

Themes: Love, Family, Pain, Violence, Grief, Conflict, Beauty, Community Spirit. Identity.

Likes/Dislikes: There is nothing that I especially dislike about this book...I do like the feeling of unity that it installs in the reader. This is an uplifting book, so human, no ugly, warped, distorted view on life, trying to be something it is not. It just is.

Overall Opinion: I know I seem incapable of giving less than an 8/10, but it does happen. Not in this case though, this book is very special and it will affect people in different ways. It will definitely make you consider things like identity, people's stories and your behaviour towards your loved ones and other people you meet in the community. I will be recommending this to everyone who asks me for a great book to read!

Rating: 10/10

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