Isabella Biedenharn
September 23, 2016 AT 04:14 PM EDT

Kids of Appetite

Current Status
In Season
David Arnold

We gave it a B

Bruno Victor “Vic” Bernucci III — star of Kids of Appetite, David Arnold’s first book since 2015’s Mosquitoland — has a lot going on inside. “I felt like this: a shaken bottle of champagne; an angry volcano tired of humans building silly little houses on my arms and legs like I didn’t exist, like I couldn’t wipe them out whenever I wanted,” he says. But you wouldn’t guess those feelings from his face. Vic suffers from Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that paralyzes his facial muscles. Moebius makes daily life hard enough, but on top of that, Vic’s father died two years ago, and his mother is about to marry a man with two needlessly cruel sons. Oh, and as the book begins, Vic is being questioned at a police station about a grisly murder.

Eight days before, he’d hit a breaking point. With his father’s ashes and a cryptic note in tow, he fell in with a ragtag group of misfits: brothers Baz and Nzuzi, soft-spoken Congolese refugees; 11-year-old Coco, a modern Little Orphan Annie but with more attitude; and the beautiful Mad, who’s infatuated with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and worried about her senile grandmother. Together with his new friends, Vic puzzles out his father’s clues about where to spread his ashes—until their adventure, chronicled with Arnold’s expert pacing, culminates in a killing.

While Kids of Appetite has its flaws — beating inside jokes and hashtag-ready catchphrases into the ground and giving in to the temptations of cliché — Arnold’s memorable characters feel real, and their story compels till the end. B

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