Kids of Appetite - Review by Becca, Teen Blogger
Kids of Appetite, or They Lived and They Laughed and They Saw That It was Good, by David Arnold is a stand-alone novel worth reading by anyone and everyone. It’s a dynamic and diverse read, written by an author with a clear skill for getting you inside the heads of his real-as-life characters. With both subtle and blatant messages woven throughout about growing up, acceptance, and the power of love, its relevance is clear. Though Kids of Appetite is meant for young adults, it is an novel to be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Our main character is Victor Benucci, the son of a recently passed father who’s navigating the difficulties of having a mother in a new relationship. He’s teenaged and a hopeless romantic; smart and a bit of a nerd—but the first thing anyone ever notices about him isn’t any of that. It’s the fact that Victor has Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that causes facial paralysis.
After a series of life-altering events cause Victor to run away from home, armed only with a backpack, iPod, favourite pair of Mets sweatpants, and his father’s ashes that hold a letter within them. He finds a safe haven with a group of kids around his town: they are the self-named Kids of Appetite, and together the five of them—Vic himself, the Congolese brothers Baz and Nzuzi Kabongo, eleven-year-old Coco, and colourful, S. E. Hinton-obsessed girl named Mad—embark on an incredible journey to follow the instructions left in Vic’s father’s final note. eight days later, amongst two songs about flowers, a couple pints of ice cream, a Journey record and a book about how to write books, the Kids of Appetite find themselves in the middle of an unbelievable murder investigation.
While KoA’s driving plot—the journey the gang embarks on to spread Victor’s father’s ashes according to the locations written in his last letter—is certainly a great aspect of the novel, I found its greatest strength to be its character development. All of the characters are fleshed out and real, and each have their own personal hurdle to cross to get to the finish line. Whether it be reconciling with their past, their present, or their future, the kids face parts of themselves that change their lives.
Kids of Appetite, David Arnold’s second novel, has received much praise among the book community. It is a New York Times bestseller, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016 and an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016—to name a few awards. It has also been given gushing reviews from Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, and starred reviews from BCCB and Publishers Weekly.
I greatly enjoyed David Arnold’s novel! Between its diverse cast of characters and witty, thoughtful writing, Kids of Appetite is the perfect coming-of-age contemporary. It thoroughly explores themes like teenage grief, relationships, love as well as abuse, and our societal views of beauty and perfection. It also discusses the ways we are shaped by the things we love. Mad, for example, adores the novel Outsiders but refuses to finish it for fear of “losing” the characters, and Victor finds parts of his father within paintings by Matisse. Told through the perspectives of both Mad and Victor, it flips between the now—the story of the Hackensack Police Department interrogation rooms—and the before—the story of the Kids of Appetite.
I would rate this novel 4.5/5 stars. Kids of Appetite was thought provoking and real, while still maintaining the charm and wit expected of a group of teenage misfits. Perhaps its most important and impressive aspect, KoA was also very educational. A great many of the topics discussed within it are things I haven’t much heard of, but I was eager to learn more about after reading. If you are interested in some of the topics discussed in Kids of Appetite, you can learn more about Moebius Syndrome here, about immigrants of the Democratic Republic of Congo here, and about teenage homelessness in Halifax here.
“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.” -David Arnold, Kids of Appetite