Book Review ➵ Kids of Appetite

koaTitle: Kids of Appetite

Author: David Arnold

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Genre: Contemporary

Goodreads Review

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: 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.

When I received a copy of KOA in my Barnes and Noble B-Fest haul back in June see the post here it didn’t take very long for me to realize that David Arnold wrote Mosquitoland. I was like, no way! Mosquitoland was one of my favorite books of summer 2015. And I’ve just received his new book, no charge? Hell yeah, sign me up!

Despite the positive raving I’d heard about KOA from a few of my followers on Twitter, I hadn’t expected to love this book as much as I did 🙂 The story begins in the (very real) town of Hackensack, New Jersey. Not only does the book perpetuate a strong bond between our refreshing cast of diverse characters, but it teaches us readers just how much of a person doesn’t quite meet the eye.

KOA deserves an A+++ for Young Adult diversity. It’s something I can never get enough of. From backstory of a reclusive Zuz and storyteller Baz in their escape from a war-torn Congo, to the precocious (and vulgar) Coco, to the mysterious, S.E. Hinton-obsessed Madeline (who goes by Mad.) They’re your typical band of orphans who stick together in a random house in the middle of nowhere and somehow managed to score without paying an ounce of mortgage. And there is Vic, our protagonist, who is still hung up over the death of his father to cancer. The kids take Vic in like a bird with a broken wing.

Vic discovers a note from his father to spread his ashes across the state of New Jersey. I know he had a lot of good memories there but why New Jersey? The four orphans decide to help Vic, and together the five of them take on the challenge. Vic comes to terms with the inevitability of death whoa, Jill, you’re getting a bit dark there  and Mad learns she doesn’t have to put up with his abusive uncle any longer.

The strong hold on finding your identity and the bond of friendship were by far my favorite aspects of KOA. Mix that with the aspect of young adult diversity, family, and adventure, and you have the equation for one heartbreaking, but incredibly uplifting book.

That marks the end of my spoiler-free section, so unless you’ve read KOA, I’d suggest clicking away now.

Now that the raving is over don’t worry I loved KOA but every book has its faults  it’s time to delve into the issues and cliches I found in this self-discovering read.

This book goes heavy on the promotion of S.E. Hinton’s modern classic The Outsiders. Mad, one of our main characters, was completely obsessed with The Outsiders and was found with the book in her hands every spare moment of the day. I myself didn’t love the book nearly as much as she did, but I can’t say there’s anything wrong with Mad’s love of S.E. Hinton. The book spine is also right on the front of the KOA cover, which was a cute touch. That being said, discussing the S.E. Hinton was a little fourth-wall breaking aspect that I’d rather not digest while trying to read my book here.

Ultimately I discovered some cliches in KOA. Three, in fact. Nothing too heavy to lay down on the book remember I rated it like five stars here  but these three tropes hit me while reading + scribbled them down, sure to mention them in my review.

1. 🙂 Smoking is cool 🙂 Mad, our S.E. Hinton-obsessed character, is get this a regular smoker. Perhaps it was an aimed approach to match her love for the Outsiders boys and a ‘simpler time’ but in this case I just find smoking disgusting and can’t seem to understand why it’s seen as cool in any corner of the world. There isn’t much more I can say about this cliche besides the fact smoking is not cool.

2. John Green Syndrome. Okay, so maybe I invented the term, but readers of John Green will understand once I explain. KOA opens up with teens who’ve experienced life way beyond their age, lost things and people along the way, and have to scrap their life back together—yet ultimately have the wisdom of a 257-year old Japanese sensei somewhere. John Green’s characters, to no one’s surprise, are the clear-cut version of what I’d just described. And I know it’s intentional—these teens are supposed to represent integrity and wisdom and resilience—but a teen who quotes philosophers who’ve been dead for centuries and mentally tears down the barriers of social conformity on a regular basis should really let their thoughts wind down for a day. The self-discovery can wait a day or two.tumblr_nqi7g20enw1riae2mo1_r1_500

3. Parents are your enemies. Damn, don’t you just hate when your parents care? Or when they’re totally not dead so you can go gallivanting across the state without a word of where you are? Yeah, me too. A classic YA trope is that our fierce protagonist’s parent usually parent, because if they’re fortunate enough to have a parent they ultimately get just one  is either useless, unfit, or abusive. Vic had a wonderful mother who found love in a new man, and Vic runs out when she proposes. I get the kid is still hung up over his dad, but he needs to chill for a moment. And Coco, from the Queens it was killing me in the beginning of the review when I couldn’t seem to remember which neighborhood she hailed from  has a mother who died and a father who drank himself to unemployment then just left? He just left?? I guess he just got tired of being a father?—Don’t try to pull that *bs* on me. I’m sure it’s been done in real life, but what is it with these YA parents and refusing to be parents? Either they die or abandon their kids. Usually one of each. Like, hey there anonymous YA parent, you signed up for this. Anyway, that’s enough. I think I’ll analyze parenting in YA on a separate post in the future. Because, trust me, I’ve got lots to say, as you can probably tell. For this cliche I think I was describing how parental roles are abandoned in KOA, by far the worst cliche I could find in the book. Yay! Teenagers stick together, who needs parents? They’re just unnecessary. I hear chocolate is better.


Despite all of the cliches I spotted which was ultimately three, so congrats, David Arnold  I overall found myself in love with this book. I did most of the raving in the spoiler-free section, so feel free to reread what I could easily restate here, but honestly am sick of the procrastination I have with this review. So there: a review.

Although one last thing to mention before I dump a bunch of quotes on you—one aspect of KOA I loved that didn’t fit into the spoiler-free section or the cliche trumping section—was the part about Baz and his story. As mentioned earlier, Baz escaped Congo with his brother Zuz as a kid. To avenge his mother even though that sounded like a superhero backstory for a moment  Baz is writing a book about all of the people who influence his life in any way. These people are known as Chapters—which the reader is kept in the dark about until Baz explains his literary journey to Vic, who he crowns as a Chapter as his own. A lot of people aren’t even aware they’re a Chapter, which makes the story even more special. And in the end, we’re told Baz’s book is being published albeit with a very long title: They Lived and They Laughed and They Saw That It Was Good (or, Kids of Appetite)

I hope all of you go out and purchase KOA when it’s released. Buy Mosquitoland while you’re at it. I haven’t decided which is my favorite of the duo, both of them had equally satisfying aspects of their story, but I’d love to hear if you’ve read Mosquitoland in the comments below 🙂

By far the funniest part of these read: The Lettuce Wrap. I’ll type it below you can thank me later.

We’re the real Kids of Appetite here to say / Been wrapping our lettuce since way back in the day / It’s crunchy, it’s healthy, it’s sort of sweet / Gimme those veggies, don’t gimme your meat / Lettuce ain’t no filler, son, why you playin’? / It’s legit delicious, yo, I’m just sayin’ / Who are we to boss you around? / I’ll tell you in a sec, gotta drag this chorus down 

Let us wrap. . .the Lettuce Wrap / Let us rap. . .the Lettuce Rap 

Not cola, not classic, I’m Coke, that’s enough / Made by Queens machines, so you know that I’m tough / Over here is Baz, he old, but he cool

Right there, that’s Spoils, ain’t nobody’s fool / My boy Zuz dropping truths like a motherfrakking boss / He speaks in other ways—don’t hear him? Your loss / Mad ain’t here, so you know what to do / Leave a message once it beeps—here, I’ll do it too


Let us wrap. . .the Lettuce Wrap / Let us rap. . .the Lettuce Rap

Suffice it to say, we just took you to school / Played you like a fiddle, done soaked up your cool / Listen up now, chump (and you a chump unanimous) / Said it once, twice, thrice, infinitous / I’ll keep preaching my sermon, keep gettin’ knocked down / I know a good thing when a good thing’s around / And here’s that good thing, imma say it again / It’s simple, it’s truth, here it is now, lean in / If you wanna hella good thing to munch / The KOA endorse lettuce for lunch 

Let us wrap. . .the Lettuce Wrap / Let us rap. . .the Lettuce Rap

Quote Dump

“‘And when the kids needed someone most, someone to love and trust, they found one another, and they called themselves the Kids of Appetite, and they lived and laughed and saw that it was good.’

‘What do you guys think?’ asked Coco. ‘I know Vic is just a Chapter and all, but—I dunno, after today, it feels like we’re a real gang, you know? Like the greasers, right, Mad? From The Outsiders? Figured we should have a name.'”

Have you read Kids of Appetite? Mosquitoland? What were your thoughts?




6 thoughts on “Book Review ➵ Kids of Appetite

  1. I really love your reviews, you put a lot of effort and care into making sure that every aspect of the book is explored, while leaving room for curiosity so that we as readers can also enjoy the book! This sounds like an interesting read, and is going on my TBR list this instant! Though I haven’t read any of these books, I’ll have to check it out.
    Also, I found your blog through twitter, and am looking forward to your future posts 🙂
    Grace from


    1. Aw thank you so much you are too KIND ❤ And I definitely recommend this book when it's released 🙂 Can't wait to hear from you again!


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