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The Mostly True Story of Jack (edition 2012)

by Kelly Barnhill

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172None69,056 (3.51)1
Member:bibliovermis
Title:The Mostly True Story of Jack
Authors:Kelly Barnhill
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, fantasy, young adult, fairy tales, mystery, magic, family, friendship

Work details

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

2011 (4) 2012 (3) aunts (3) bullying (5) children (2) children's (2) children's fiction (4) children's literature (4) family (11) fantasy (19) fiction (15) first edition (3) friends (4) friendship (15) good (2) good vs. evil (2) hardcover (2) Iowa (13) jfic (4) juvenile (2) kids (2) magic (23) mystery (9) nature (3) novel (3) summer (3) to-read (7) trees (3) YA (3) young adult (3)
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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A virtually invisible boy named Jack, trees, magic, a town called Hazelwood, and on the Staff Recommends shelf at the library: good signs. But no. Kelly Barnhill’s Mostly True Story of Jack was like The Dark Is Rising when all the world-saving mandalas are easily located within a single neighborhood of a Home County … because that’s the pedestrian range of a boy, not because evil forces have any reason to concentrate there. (Give me Over Sea, Under Stone or The Grey King any day). This was local magic, tied to the earth of a particular place, so the limited geography makes sense (unlike in the Cooper); the comparison is to clumsy rule-writing.

I liked the premise of magic inherent in Iowa because it reminded me of my friend Sarah Prineas’s Winterling, and also of Savvy. Flyover states: not just for corn any more. However, while Sarah’s world makes internal sense, this one, not so much. Where’d the mirror come from? Where’d the cats and parrot come from? How’d the skateboard get to be the way it is? Does Jack have to be so Christ-like? Didn’t we already do the soul thing in Amber Spyglass? Did the author pay royalties to J.K. Rowling when Lancelot carried a message (to whom, anyway, or could she just not resist?) and an object with magical properties of transportation — again, from where? — was called a “Portsmouth”? Or to Joss Whedon when Jack turned out to be Dawn Summers?

It began well, with Jack’s invisibility and Hazelwood’s insulation, but it was mishmash before the halfway mark. The most I can say for it is that the story was entire within itself, and though open to a sequel you don’t need need to read a whole damn trilogy to find out whatever. And I have to mention that it had the de rigueur “pour” for “pore” error.
  ljhliesl | May 25, 2013 |
Loved it! Nicely written, and has a new spin on the changeling idea. Barnhill has done something that is very different from your standard fantasy -- she has created a new and original mythology for Jack's town, and I really appreciate that. ( )
  Inky_Fingers | May 19, 2013 |
Utterly weird. And not, I'm afraid, very interesting to me. Jack is too strange, and too whiny, to hold my interest; the events are too confusing, and by the time things started connecting and making sense the book was almost over. I liked Wendy, a bit, and Anders quite a lot - but they're very definitely secondary characters, with tiny POV parts. Frankie is also too strange, and too much of a deus ex machina. And so on. One thing that bothered me throughout was Jack's stubbornness about what was going on - he determinedly ignored everything that happened around him. And the timeline, when it's finally revealed, makes it even odder - only four years? So all his memories of normality must have been implanted...and why couldn't they be removed, or at least lightened, so that he could understand better? I guess Clive fits the stereotype of the incompetent magician...sort of. Don't know. Overall, too many things bothered me. The basic structure was mildly interesting, but where it was different from what I've seen before it seemed weaker. So...not a favorite, or one I'm interested in rereading. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Mar 24, 2013 |
Listened to Audio

Recommended Ages: Gr. 5-8

Plot Summary: Everyone in Jack's home town can practically pretend Jack doesn't exist, even his own mother and brother. When Jack's parents get divorced, Jack is sent to Iowa to stay with his aunt and uncle. For the first time, people are starting to notice him. But things in Iowa are weird. The house seems to have a personality of it's own, breathing and moving. His uncle gives him a book to read with the history of the town and Jack realizes he is a big part of it. He also sees the very first picture of himself. Jack must save the town from the evil spirits and also save his new friends.

Setting: Iowa

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Personal Thoughts: I had a really hard time with this book. I started reading it and didn't like it. Then I started the audio and also found it slow, hard to follow, and uninteresting. Finally, I forced myself to listen to more of the audio but finally went back to the book so I could skim and skip parts to get the basics. I don't think it was written poorly, I just didn't like it at all. I found it very confusing and I didn't understand the fantasy world or even the plot at all.

Genre: fantasy

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Activity: ( )
  pigeonlover | Jan 4, 2013 |
My problem right out of the gate is that this a genre I have never been much fond of to begin with. I've never bought into the entire Midwestern town being fueled by magic ... maybe I'm too pragmatic, but it starts raising a whole lot of TQM flags for me, a entire town, that's a lot of infrastructure to deal with.

And there's too much magic in this book for my taste. I guess this is ... Nearly every plot turn is driven by magic. Why did that happen? Oh, magic! I always wonder what the point of the book is (it's sort of like how I feel about basketball - everything always happens in the last five minutes of the game, what's the point of playing the first part of the game then, just play five minute games) when the courage or intelligence or kindness (or lack of) of the characters takes such a significant back seat to the magic. You could cut right to the end, where it all gets resolved by ... magic!

And I don't think I'm the sharpest knife in the drawer by any means, but I had a challenging time keeping up with the "rules" of how this magic was supposed to work. I couldn't keep the magical players or the timeline straight in my head, and I had to go back and carefully read several of the descriptions related to this in order to suss everything out.

Finally, what kind of nonsense is it to publish a book with a title so similar to a recent Newbery Honor book (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg)? Was the runner up choice From the Mixed Up Files of Mr. Horace Avery?

I am giving it a generous three stars because I know that I am never going to like this style of book but I respect the possibility that others might not be as biased to start with. ( )
  delphica | May 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316056707, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011 : Jack had always been invisible. Not literally, though it often felt that way even around his family. When Jack arrives in Hazelwood, Iowa, to spend the summer with his unusual relatives he suddenly finds himself getting noticed…a lot. In fact, people seem to know all about him, especially Mr. Avery, the wealthiest man in town who inexplicably hates Jack on sight. In The Mostly True Story of Jack a keenly perceptive boy, a fearsome girl, and her damaged twin brother, help Jack discover who he is--unearthing deeply rooted secrets in the process. Twists and turns abound as more is revealed in this strange town where nature, magic, love, and sacrifice, are deeply entwined with the extraordinary power of belonging. --Seira Wilson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:43 -0400)

Jack is practically invisible at home, but when his parents send him to Hazelwood, Iowa, to spend a summer with his odd aunt and uncle, he suddenly makes friends, is beaten up by the town bully, and is plotted against by the richest man in town.

(summary from another edition)

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