3 stars · fiction · ya

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
Pub. Date: January 20, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Scribner!!)
Summary: An archivist of his mother, Bobby Nusku spends his nights meticulously cataloging her hair, clothing, and other traces of the life she left behind. By day, Bobby and his best friend Sunny hatch a plan to transform Sunny, limb-by-limb, into a cyborg who could keep Bobby safe from schoolyard torment and from Bobby’s abusive father and his bleach-blonde girlfriend. When Sunny is injured in a freak accident, Bobby is forced to face the world alone.

Out in the neighborhood, Bobby encounters Rosa, a peculiar girl whose disability invites the scorn of bullies. When Bobby takes Rosa home, he meets her mother, Val, a lonely divorcee, whose job is cleaning a mobile library. Bobby and Val come to fill the emotional void in each other’s lives, but their bond also draws unwanted attention. After Val loses her job and Bobby is beaten by his father, they abscond in the sixteen-wheel bookmobile. On the road they are joined by Joe, a mysterious but kindhearted ex-soldier. This puzzle of people will travel across England, a picaresque adventure that comes to rival those in the classic books that fill their library-on-wheels.
Genre: Fiction, YA, Contemporary
Recommended for: Readers of realistic fiction that’ll tug at the heartstrings, those who don’t mind the term ‘tragicomedy’

Mobile Library came out of nowhere, catching me off guard at every turn. The very beginning of the novel (actually the conclusion, aptly titled “The End”) led me to believe the absolute worst of one of the characters. I was completely, entirely, 100% convinced this was going to be a novel about sexual abuse and a relationship that takes place between a child and an adult. I don’t want to spoil anything, though I’ll say I couldn’t have been happier to be so thoroughly wrong – and I’m wondering if that was Whitehouse’s intention all along. The story itself deals with judgement and preconceived notions so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the author would blindly lead the reader down a certain path. Bravo for that, Mr. Whitehouse. I wasn’t expecting it one bit.

Bobby Nusku spends his days being tormented by bullies at school and his nights holed up in his room in an attempt to stay away from his alcoholic, abusive father and bottle-blonde girlfriend. See, Bobby is on a mission: he meticulously catalogs everything about his mother’s life – strands of her hair, old perfume bottles – and jots down every visitor, every conservation had since the day she left so that Bobby can bring her up to speed the moment she returns. When Sunny comes into Bobby’s life, everything changes. Sunny announces his plan to stop the bullies and protect Bobby by becoming a cyborg. In order to achieve his goal, however, he gets himself into a horrific set of accidents (starting with a broken arm – reset with a metal rod), only to ultimately go too far.

While Rosa’s disabilities keep her from understanding the world, her heart is bursting with an incredible amount of love and affection and the moment she meets Bobby, she instantly takes a liking to him. Val, Rosa’s mother, understands the world perfectly thank you very much, and she prefers to keep things private. In order to better care for her daughter, Val takes a position as cleaner for the town’s Mobile Library, a large truck packed full of books. It’s this Mobile Library that will come to the rescue, whisking Bobby, Val, and Rosa far away from their town and lead them on a grand storybook-esque adventure full of heroes and villains.

Mobile Library didn’t stick with me nearly as much as I had hoped. I pegged this one as a hidden gem and, yes, it was definitely enjoyable while reading, but now that it’s said and done, I’m having a hard time remembering just what was so special. Don’t get me wrong: this book is truly lovely and packed multiple punches, but it’s not one I would revisit. The stay was great, but I’m not saddened to move on to the next book.

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