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The Mostly True Story of Jack

The Mostly True Story of Jack ($16.95, Little, Brown and Company, Middle Grade) is by Kelly Barnhill and reviewed by Lindy Michaels.

Who is Jack and perhaps more importantly, what is Jack? He is taken by his divorcing mother to stay with his aunt and uncle in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa. Even though Jack had always felt invisible to his mother, he never wanted to leave her. But oddly, there was something so familiar about this new and strange place, although he knew not what. And the strange only got stranger to the boy, as the days went by. Jack knew things, remembered things, but he just couldn’t seem to remember why he was remembering these things and what they meant. It was all so fuzzy in his mind.

There was the ancient book that his uncle gave him, which was filled with magical and unworldly information. Very confusing!  There was the girl, Wendy, who knew things, but wouldn’t tell. And there was her twin brother, Frankie, who years before, mysteriously had disappeared for months, only to be found by Jack’s uncle, his face now scarred, unable to utter a single word, never able to tell what had happened to him and why.

The richest man in town, Mr. Avery knew the secrets of Hazelwood, of the Lady under the ground, who had split in two… her good side weakened by her evil side, who stole the souls of those who had disappeared from the town. And yes, there were many of them. And the strangest thing of all was that once they were gone, they were immediately forgotten by their loved ones, by the town. It was as if they had never existed. And later, Wendy was underground. Would she be forgotten forever? Could her soul be saved?

What was the secret of this town and the Lady, split in two? And who would win? The good side of her, or the evil? And somehow could the young boy, Jack, have the magic within himself to find the answers? To save Wendy? To rescue all the taken souls? To bring together the good and evil of the Lady and make her whole, once again, perhaps making Jack whole again, too, to finally find his way home?  The  Mostly True Story of Jack is a mesmerizing read, beautifully poetic, with the rhythm of the wind. This is a novel that compels one to turn page after page, because one must learn of all the secrets and haunting mystery and magic of Hazelwood.

Written so beautifully by first time children’s author, Kelly Barnhill, this story will take readers to places they could have never, ever imagined in their wildest dreams. My personal opinion is, because of the rather complicated storyline, I recommend it for children ages eleven up through adulthood, all of whom, I believe, will be as touched by this magical journey as I was. A stunning debut novel.

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