The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill (2011)

Someone watched him.
She had been sleeping – a long, troubled sleep. And something – She did not yet know what – had woken Her. Partially. She couldn’t move, though. Not yet (p 65).

Jack has always felt invisible and lonely. When his parents split up, he is taken to his Aunt Mabel and Uncle Clive’s house in Hazelwood, Iowa. His arrival does not go unnoticed.

Frankie was the first to notice. Four years ago, Frankie went missing. Some people in town began to forget that he ever existed. But not his sister, Wendy. She clung to his memory even as pictures of him began to fade. Then Frankie, disfigured and mute, was found and returned by Clive. But his scars have memories and he knows things.

Clayton Avery notices too. His ears are ichy, like there’s a bug in them. But he doesn’t understand why and his father, the richest man in town, dismisses him angrily. Then it becomes clear Mr. Avery would like to Jack dead.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is a good first offering by debut author Kelly Barnhill. The opening sequence gripped me but my attention waved as the novel lengthened and the foreshadowing was too thickly laid. The underlying themes of friendship and storytelling (i.e. knowing most of the story) were well done, but the magical elements were poorly developed compared to other fantasy books I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t feel transported to a magical community.

Is it Newbery worthy? Not according to Nina Lindsay. While it is a book I could easily booktalk and recommend, I’d also say it falls short of Newbery standards.

Read other reviews:
Geo Librarian
The Boy Reader

Advance reader copy (print) | August 2, 2011 | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 336 pages | Ages 9-12 | ISBN: 978-0316056700 |$16.99

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