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Family by Micol Ostow
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Family

by Micol Ostow

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Abused teenage girl runs away from home to San Francisco and ends up with Charles Manson-like "family." Though the ending disappointed me a bit, this is an exceptional novel in verse. Intense, disturbing and quite terrifying. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
It pains me to have to write this review because for so long I have pined after this book, and all I feel is let down. When I first heard that there was a YA novel about the Manson family murders, I was totally intrigued. I've read Helter Skelter many, many times, and I've watched countless documentaries on Manson himself, and his 'family.' I even have a favorite Manson girl:




These murders were vicious and brutal and scary. Really, really scary. The cult dynamics of the Manson family were intriguing at best, and horrifying at their worst. I've always wondered what kind of person you'd have to be to be so brainwashed, so wrapped up in another person that you would commit heinous acts of violence and call it 'love.' This has eluded me ever since I heard of Charles Manson, and with FAMILY, I thought I could gain some insights. I was wrong.

When I found out that FAMILY was written in verse, I hesitated. And I'm glad I did. The only books written in verse that I've read are by Francesca Lia Block, but we all know that she is the name in that style, the best at what she does. So I guess either I've got really high standards, or I haven't read enough books like this to totally grasp the why of writing in verse. It seemed so... stupid. It literally took two pages to tell the reader how much Mel loved doing laundry. I am not making this shit up. And - this happened more than once - I would turn the page only to read something literally copied and pasted from a previous chapter. Also, the wording was so, so, so repetitive and freaking redundant. I skipped so many pages of "always, never, His message, Henry, no ego" OVER AND OVER again. Seriously? I freaking get it.

I couldn't really connect well with any of the characters either. Mel is just a husk of a person by the time the book starts, so I don't really think there is anything to connect or relate to. I mean, I don't even know what she or Henry (aka Charlie) look like. I never figured out exactly what Henry did to make Mel believe in him so much. I mean, I could guess a bunch of theories as to why Mel fell for it all, but none of them would be concrete or correct, because it was never touched on in the book. One day Mel runs away from home, and the next day she is sleeping with Henry in his van doing acid. There was so much disconnect between me and Mel that I just couldn't accept that she wanted to be there.

The only character that I really liked - loved - was Shelly. She was Mel's closest confidant, best friend, sister in the compound. She felt wholly real to me, entirely fleshed out. A story (even told in verse) from Shelly's point of view would have been dynamic and entertaining and captivating. Shelly actually goes through some character arcs throughout the novel that really made me feel something for her, made me feel close to her. Mel never actually changes or even makes decisions during the story, so it was hard to tell if she grew or not. But Shelly was fascinating, and broken, and just plain old crazy. I loved her.

There were a few passages that were well written towards the end. When the climax hit, that is, the murders, I was frantically turning the page. But fuck did it take long to actually describe what was happening. The murders only took place for like five minutes, but it took a grand total of 120 pages to describe them. And THERE IS NO DETAIL at all. All it is is Mel having a heart attack over what she's doing. There is no gore, no violence, no chaos. Nothing. Just Mel saying "no never always infinity Henry His message shaking drowning premise promise" for fucking 120 pages.

The ending was a total letdown for me. It really sealed the deal for me as far as NOT buying into Mel's brainwashing and devotion to Henry. It was dumb. The synopsis says that this novel is 'loosely' based on the Manson murders, but it follows the entire story to a fault. So I really, really didn't understand why Ostow chose this ending.

In all, this book could have been something special. It could have really shown the violence and the horror of the Manson family freak show. It could have given us a glimpse inside the head of a brainwashed victim of a cult. With a better ending, and NOT being written in freaking verse, this book could have been phenomenal, but instead it was a let down. ( )
  PrettyDeadly | Mar 31, 2013 |
It pains me to have to write this review because for so long I have pined after this book, and all I feel is let down. When I first heard that there was a YA novel about the Manson family murders, I was totally intrigued. I've read Helter Skelter many, many times, and I've watched countless documentaries on Manson himself, and his 'family.' I even have a favorite Manson girl:




These murders were vicious and brutal and scary. Really, really scary. The cult dynamics of the Manson family were intriguing at best, and horrifying at their worst. I've always wondered what kind of person you'd have to be to be so brainwashed, so wrapped up in another person that you would commit heinous acts of violence and call it 'love.' This has eluded me ever since I heard of Charles Manson, and with FAMILY, I thought I could gain some insights. I was wrong.

When I found out that FAMILY was written in verse, I hesitated. And I'm glad I did. The only books written in verse that I've read are by Francesca Lia Block, but we all know that she is the name in that style, the best at what she does. So I guess either I've got really high standards, or I haven't read enough books like this to totally grasp the why of writing in verse. It seemed so... stupid. It literally took two pages to tell the reader how much Mel loved doing laundry. I am not making this shit up. And - this happened more than once - I would turn the page only to read something literally copied and pasted from a previous chapter. Also, the wording was so, so, so repetitive and freaking redundant. I skipped so many pages of "always, never, His message, Henry, no ego" OVER AND OVER again. Seriously? I freaking get it.

I couldn't really connect well with any of the characters either. Mel is just a husk of a person by the time the book starts, so I don't really think there is anything to connect or relate to. I mean, I don't even know what she or Henry (aka Charlie) look like. I never figured out exactly what Henry did to make Mel believe in him so much. I mean, I could guess a bunch of theories as to why Mel fell for it all, but none of them would be concrete or correct, because it was never touched on in the book. One day Mel runs away from home, and the next day she is sleeping with Henry in his van doing acid. There was so much disconnect between me and Mel that I just couldn't accept that she wanted to be there.

The only character that I really liked - loved - was Shelly. She was Mel's closest confidant, best friend, sister in the compound. She felt wholly real to me, entirely fleshed out. A story (even told in verse) from Shelly's point of view would have been dynamic and entertaining and captivating. Shelly actually goes through some character arcs throughout the novel that really made me feel something for her, made me feel close to her. Mel never actually changes or even makes decisions during the story, so it was hard to tell if she grew or not. But Shelly was fascinating, and broken, and just plain old crazy. I loved her.

There were a few passages that were well written towards the end. When the climax hit, that is, the murders, I was frantically turning the page. But fuck did it take long to actually describe what was happening. The murders only took place for like five minutes, but it took a grand total of 120 pages to describe them. And THERE IS NO DETAIL at all. All it is is Mel having a heart attack over what she's doing. There is no gore, no violence, no chaos. Nothing. Just Mel saying "no never always infinity Henry His message shaking drowning premise promise" for fucking 120 pages.

The ending was a total letdown for me. It really sealed the deal for me as far as NOT buying into Mel's brainwashing and devotion to Henry. It was dumb. The synopsis says that this novel is 'loosely' based on the Manson murders, but it follows the entire story to a fault. So I really, really didn't understand why Ostow chose this ending.

In all, this book could have been something special. It could have really shown the violence and the horror of the Manson family freak show. It could have given us a glimpse inside the head of a brainwashed victim of a cult. With a better ending, and NOT being written in freaking verse, this book could have been phenomenal, but instead it was a let down. ( )
  PrettyDeadlyReviews | Nov 27, 2012 |
From the very first page I was hooked. Family tells the story of 17 year old Melinda who breaks away from an abusive family home and flees to San Francisco to find herself, and in the end, I was left feeling shocked at what she did with her new "family" in order to feel whole again. Loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969, this book is a definite page turner I'd recommend. ( )
  kissmeimgone | Sep 12, 2012 |
Soooo unsettling and upsetting, family is the story of Mel, a seventeen-year-old who's left her abusive stepfather behind and headed to San Francisco, where she meets Henry, a man the author has based on the infamous Charles Manson.

famliy is loosely based on the Manson family and the murders the group committed at Manson's direction in the 60s, and is suitably dark and chilling. Henry, like Manson, is charming, charismatic and manipulative, and through Mel's free-verse narration, the reader gets an idea of how appealing his message of love and freedom was to such a 'broken' (her word) individual. Taking Mel's journey from relief at finding someone who claims to want to protect her to dawning horror at what she and the others in her 'family' have been sent to do is an unpleasant yet powerful journey.

This story also made me wonder how close it was to the actual Manson family murders (pretty darn close - Ostow even includes quotes from family members' interviews), and as a result, I spent an evening reading many articles online about them. I'm sure I'm now on a couple of government watchlists...

Recommended for older teens, due to drug use, and sexual and violent content. ( )
  kayceel | Jan 3, 2012 |
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In the 1960s, seventeen-year-old Melinda leaves an abusive home for San Francisco, meets the charismatic Henry, and follows him to his desert commune where sex and drugs are free, but soon his "family" becomes violent against rich and powerful people and she is compelled to join in.… (more)

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