When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his crazy aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time...
When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends - not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.
The Mostly True Story of Jack is a tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong.
Jack sat in the backseat of a rental car, his sketch book open on his knees, drawing pictures of bells. His mother hadn't spoken to him in the last four hours, not that it mattered. What was there to say, really? He'd already argued and cried and reasoned, but the result was the same: His parents, after years of fighting, were finally calling it quits. Jack was to spend an entire summer in Iowa with relatives he did not know. He couldn't believe it.
Jack watched the passing farmland as it rippled and swelled like a green ocean stretching from the pavement to the sky. A darkened smudge appeared at the very end of the long, straight road. Jack squinted, trying to get a better look. There was something familiar about that, he thought, as the smudge slowly grew into the shape of a hill, though for the life of him he couldn't remember where - or whether - he'd ever seen it.
Jack closed his sketchbook with a firm slap and bound it tightly with a rubber band...
Ultimately this story is about relationships - the true meanings of friendship and family - and the sacrifices people make in the name of love and connection. And Kelly Barnhill widens the definition of these relationships and the way they all come together to create community - friends and family, yes, but also animals, and the landscape. The Almost True Story of Jack is spooky, funny and, finally, heartwarming in its own amazing and strange way. It is a suspenseful read, great for anyone who wants a fast-paced, unusual mystery to solve.
(Reviewed by Tamara Smith).
Full Review (580 words).
Kelly Barnhill is a very cool person. I don't know her personally, but you can just tell about some people.
She is a mother of three, a teacher, and a writer (and probably a million other things too). She has written poetry and short stories for adults, non-fiction books for children and, now, her first middle grade debut novel, The Mostly True Story of Jack. As she has said, "I write fiction and nonfiction - things that are Literary and Speculative and Informative and Funny and Frightening and Lyrical and Odd. Sometimes, I do all of these things at once."
Kelly is a writer's writer. "...My life is built on books. I read books, and think about books, and talk about books. In my house, the books mingle, multiply and conquer. There...
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