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The Mostly True Story of Jack

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  1,701 Ratings  ·  350 Reviews
Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time.

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends -- not imaginary friends but a
...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
52nd out of 142 books — 725 voters
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtTrue by Katherine HanniganDivergent by Veronica RothBreadcrumbs by Anne UrsuWonderstruck by Brian Selznick
DCL Mock Newbery 2012
29th out of 42 books — 35 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Minli
Jul 22, 2011 Minli rated it liked it
Jack has always felt invisible, even to his own family. When his parents get divorced and his home life falls apart, he's sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Iowa. But strange things begin to happen--first, he makes real friends, his aunt and uncle remember his name, and he draws the attention of the most powerful man in town who seems to want him dead. Why? Why is he suddenly so important here when back in San Francisco he was so effaced?

I finally picked up to this book due to critical prai
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Destinee Sutton
Honestly, this book frustrated me. In my mind, there's a limit to how long the author should keep the reader in suspense, and TMTSOJ mostly exceeded that limit. I was more than halfway through when I grew so frustrated I actually said, "Come on! Get on with it!" out loud. In a way that's a good thing. I cared enough about the characters and the plot to feel as confused and impatient as the character Jack himself probably did. On the other hand, I obviously disliked the overlong setup. So I'm not ...more
Erica
Oct 15, 2011 Erica rated it it was ok
I originally thought this book was going to be an engaging read - the synopsis told of a boy who is normally overlooked and ignored, moves to a new town, and immediately garners the attention of several different people. However, rather than feeling drawn in by the mystery of the story, I found myself a little bored with the pacing and the lack of information provided. It's one thing to carefully construct a plot that keeps the reader wanting to know more, providing bits of information and ...more
Spark740
Aug 01, 2012 Spark740 rated it it was amazing
Ok, so obviously a lot of people do not agree with my five star, so let me just say that I can see how someone would not enjoy this book. But I enjoyed it.

1) CLEAN. Ok. So I think Wendy said "oh God" maybe thrice. Jack did kindofnotreally kiss her, which is totally dumb because he's barely double digits. But that lets one totally disregard it. So I read this book without my brain being affronted by mind-numbing and completely unnecessary extensions of romance.
2) INTERESTING. Most books I can r
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Steven R. McEvoy
Feb 25, 2015 Steven R. McEvoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
This is one of those books where the cover grabbed my attention. Not the current cover but the older version of the cover. There was something so haunting and yet intriguing about it that just grabbed my attention. And I am so thankful that I picked up the book and gave it a read. To be honest it was introduction to the writings of Kelly Barnhill but I know it will not be my last book by her. In fact I started a second as soon as I finished this one. While reading this I could barely put it ...more
Mary
Mar 01, 2012 Mary rated it it was ok
Shelves: children-s
I can't think of a kid who would really like this book. Only the most patient, persistent young reader would get through it and then they'd probably be disappointed by the somewhat adult message at the end.
The story begins with Jack's mother dropping him off for the summer at the house of his eccentric aunt and uncle - as she drops him off, she seems to be forgetting all about him. Odd things begin to happen to Jack, some of which are explained in a book he's given by Uncle Clive about magic tha
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Tessa Joy
Nov 02, 2011 Tessa Joy rated it did not like it
Very confusing story. I was trying to explain it to my husband and I just couldn't. The magic is not clearly outlined, the chronology of events is blurred, and the build up to what is the "truth" is too much at times. Basically, the only redeeming quality was it had good voice....that is what kept me reading. There was suspense, but, again, it was blown out of proportion or it was quickly and not clearly resolved. I had expectations with the story going into it, thinking it was a retelling of ...more
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Mar 06, 2012 IndyPL Kids Book Blog rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
If you’ve ever felt forgotten or ignored at home then you can probably relate to Jack. But when you read about what HIS Mom and Dad are like, you might not feel so ignored after all. Something weird is going on with Jack’s family and you can tell right away because Jack’s Mom…she can’t even remember his NAME.

Jack’s mother pointed at Jack, her face slack and dreamy. She narrowed her eyes and snapped her fingers a couple of times as though trying to remember something. Jack pressed his hand to his
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Charlyn
Dec 05, 2011 Charlyn rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Gr. 5 and up
Children often feel discarded when parents divorce, but, in Jack's case, he really is sent away and forgotten. And therein lies the mystery of the book: what has happened to children who have vanished and then been forgotten in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, where Jack has been taken to live with his aunt and uncle?

The premise of this book is quite different from so many other fantasy books on the market and also quite similar in that a child who not yet knows his own way through life is sent to b
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Jodi Papazian
Sep 15, 2011 Jodi Papazian rated it it was ok
Looking for something to recommend to my "tween" readers, I grabbed The Mostly True Story of Jack. This was a bit of an "eh" book for me. It was a bit difficult for me to plug through and I found a lot of the parts kind of boring.
After feeling invisible for most his life, Jack is sent to spend the summer with an aunt and uncle he doesn't know. However, he soon fnds that they, along with the others in the town, know a great deal about him. His uncle keeps pressing Jack to read a book on the his
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Cara M
Mar 14, 2012 Cara M rated it it was amazing
When I first started to read this book, just picking it up at the library, a chill crept down my spine. A book about a boy who feels ignored by his parents, sent to stay with his aunt, a skateboard, a crumbling old house, a parent who is split in two. Was this the soul of my own book come back to haunt me? But as I continued one, I was drawn into this book's own story and mythology, heavily drenched in old world fairytales, the green man, the children in the corn, and bursting with power, yours ...more
Melanie
Aug 16, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it
Complicated. That is the best word I can think to not only describe the plot behind "The Mostly True Story of Jack" by Kelly Barnhill, but quite possibly the whole point behind her writing the book in the first place. Don't misunderstand me; while the plot is unique, interesting and cleverly fast-paced, it is also easy to follow. Information is slowly unraveled for the reader as they discover the mystery of Jack, his foggy past, and the dark and mysterious history and happenings in the town of ...more
LeAnn Suchy
Mar 07, 2012 LeAnn Suchy rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade, fantasy
Originally reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

I don't know what is with these authors making me cry lately, but add Kelly Barnhill to the list. At the end of The Mostly True Story of Jack tears were streaming down my cheeks as I bemoaned the unfairness of life.

Jack is the sympathetic hero in Barnhill's tale. He's a young, invisible boy, or at least invisible is how he feels. All his life his parents and brother have ignored him, even leaving him out of family portraits. Kids in his class ignore him, to
...more
Chris
Jan 17, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, ya, mystery, boy-book
Summary from Children's Literature Review:

Jack is confused when his mother takes him to live with relatives he doesn't know after announcing that she and his father are divorcing. They have no pictures of him and his mother shows no emotion at leaving him. It is as if he is not really part of the family. Why is he left in an oddly painted house that emits warmth and seems to shudder? Legend has it that there is an underworld beneath Hazelwood, originally ruled by a Guardian that has been divide
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Barb Middleton
Feb 13, 2012 Barb Middleton rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
n this fantasy/creation story/mystery (pick your genre), Kelly Barnhill unravels a compelling story about Jack, who is sent to stay with his Aunt and Uncle in a house that literally moves, because his parents are getting a divorce. Jack makes friends with Wendy, Anders, and Frankie as the four try to uncover the mystery of why children are disappearing in their town called, Hazelwood, Iowa.

This story is well-written, creepy, weird, fun, and abstract. By abstract, I mean it deals with the spiritu
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Libby
Feb 16, 2016 Libby rated it liked it
I spent over half of The Mostly True Story of Jack waiting to find out when I was going to learn out what was really going on in Hazelwood, and once I got to the climax of the book, I still wasn't sure. I think Barnhill has a good sense of the rules of her magic, but I never got that same sense. This would be my main criticism of the book. For example, I never understood quite what the Avery men got out of making deals with the evil "Lady"--even those callous enough not to care about the price t ...more
Phyllis
Aug 04, 2011 Phyllis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: from-publisher
Jack doesn’t know why people don’t see him. Family pictures only show his father, mother and brother; Jack has drawn pictures of himself and pasted them onto the pictures. He has no friends; he’s left by bus drivers. When his parents decide to divorce, his mother drives him to Hazelwood, Iowa to stay with his aunt and uncle, Mabel and Clive, and leaves him with these strangers at an old wooden farmhouse. Jack, at first, has no interest in his aunt and uncle, the town or the people. However, he ...more
Danielle
Dec 18, 2012 Danielle rated it really liked it
I read this fantasy children's novel with my 5th grader. He and I both found the story to be gripping, creative, suspensful and thought-provoking. The main character, Jack, is an unusual boy who has gotten used to feeling invisible (living in San Fransisco, he has never once had to pay a fare to ride public transportation as the drivers simply don't seem to notice him). His parent's separation and impending divorce leads to Jack being shuttled off to a sleepy little town in Iowa to live with an ...more
Natalie
Apr 04, 2012 Natalie rated it liked it
I found this book extremely confusing. I actually started reading it, put it down and had to force myself to pick it up again and finish it.. I do think the author did a good job in writing the book, creating the characters and twisting the plot. However, I, like others I'm sure, got frustrated with the way that the mystery kept being drawn out. I also got confused by many things going on. I had questions like, who is this person again? How do they know so much? I even scratched my head and ...more
Antof9
This book was part "Scumble" and part "The Girl Who Could Fly", and part something else. Maybe the story of Persephone? I'm not sure, honestly. I sped through the majority of the book, which I found creepily fascinating, but when I got to the end, I sort of felt like there was no there there. It didn't seem like any lesson was learned and it wasn't a morality tale ... in fact, it seemed to say that the best way to function is to embrace both your good and bad sides. Or something.

I did like it --
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Jodi
Aug 06, 2011 Jodi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-read
Back in the olden days of the early 1980s, “The Wizard of Oz” was event TV. My sisters and I would flop belly-down in front of the TV, chins propped on our hands and watch with rapt attention as Dorothy wound her way through the wonderful land of Oz.

Every year, without fail, I would bawl my head off at the end when Dorothy had to say goodbye to the Scarecrow. Even when I got older and understood that Scarecrow was the guy back in Kansas, I still cried. I can’t name the emotion that scene stirred
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Denise
Mar 03, 2013 Denise rated it really liked it
I finished Kelly Barnhill's "The Mostly True Story of Jack". Jack has lived in San Francisco his entire life but now things are changing. His parents are divorcing and his Mom is taking him to live in Iowa for the summer. He'll be livng with an Aunt & Uncle he doesn't know, in a town where he has no friends, But that is nothing new, he doesn't have friends in San Francisco either. There he seems to be invisible. The night before he leaves his older brother Baxter, who has always ignored him, ...more
Joella www.cinjoella.com
Jan 11, 2012 Joella www.cinjoella.com rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, juvenile
When Jack's parents split up he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Hazelwood, Iowa. Soon he makes friends (his first ever), gets beaten up by the town bully (usually nobody even notices him), and the mayor wants to kill him. And that isn't all. Jack has a funny feeling that there is magic around Hazelwood. (People disappear, the house moves, and the bird and two cats act like they really do know what is going on.)

This is a fantasy novel with a touch of mystery and coming of age. Although
...more
Darien
Apr 04, 2012 Darien rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-fantasy
Modern Fantasy
Darien Munden

Jack has spent nearly his entire childhood being ignored. Whether by his neighbors or by people in general. That all changes when he moves to Hazelwood, Iowa. Jack has never had friends before, he's never been bullied before, now he has the unfortunate pleasure of being the most noticed guy in all of Hazelwood. What Jack doesn't realize is that all of the fairy tales he heard about as a kid were true, mostly, and now he's living in one of them! Not only is Jack struggl
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Heather Zenzen
Feb 19, 2011 Heather Zenzen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Barnhill created a masterpiece with THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK. This book has it all: characters you care about, palpable suspense, and a rich setting. As the mystery unfolds, the reader is kept guessing, and as the magic is revealed, the reader leans forward, wanting more. But Barnhill's most hailing success in this book was the abundant atmosphere. You could HEAR the corn rustling in the breeze, you could smell the moist dirt of the earth, and throughout it all, your spine crawled and you ...more
Jessica
Aug 15, 2011 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Fun, fast, intriguing, magical without being too arcane. I really appreciated how the book was set within its own fairy tale universe without relying on any particular knowledge of a story or set of stories. At the end of this book I felt something I haven't felt from a book in awhile: satisfied. It is a story well told, with a beginning, middle and end. The characters are likeable. The plot moves along. Themes of friendship, family and trust as well as respect for nature are woven throughout. ...more
April
Dec 03, 2011 April rated it really liked it
The Mostly True Story Of Jack by Kelly Barnhill is what I would consider to be a deeply unsettling book, especially for middle grade. Now, being unsettled ins’t bad. I’m still actually thinking about The Mostly True Story Of Jack. Kelly Barnhill’s writing plays on people’s fears without overt monsters.

Read the rest of my review here
Peter Patilla
Apr 18, 2015 Peter Patilla rated it liked it
This was quite a difficult book to get through in our school's book club, where I know some of the group got confused and gave up.

We did perceiver though, and the majority of the children enjoyed it and the discussions that it lead to afterwards. Around divorce and children being split from their families.

So three stars was the vote. We enjoyed it, just got confused at times and it did drag at stages.
Cheryl
Dec 13, 2011 Cheryl rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-grade, fantasy
I wanted to like this book. The writing was engaging and smooth, but the plotting was off. Much of the book was confusing (and I'm a grown-up), and the unfolding of the story seemed dependent on the protagonist refusing to remember or accept things, which was annoying. The ending felt like it was geared to lead us to another book.
Kelly
Nov 11, 2011 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I'm a sucker for the setting and the fact the story plays with the idea of a magical midwest. I found some of the development leading to the end and unraveling a little weak, as I needed more clue dropping. But that's me speaking as an adult reader; middle grade readers will appreciate it for what it is.
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I'm a writer, a mom, a wife, a dog owner, a reader, a thinker, a hiker, a friend, a runner, a teacher, a listener, terrible gardener, a lover of nature. Sometimes I'm all of these things at once.

I'm also a former bartender, former park ranger, former waitress, former church janitor, former kosher meat slicer, former wild-eyed activist, former wildland firefighter, former coffee jerk, former phon
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“A person's soul is bigger than his body. It takes root and lives in all who love him.” 17 likes
“There is no utter truth or utter falsehood in this world. There is only mostly. Which part of the mostly you choose to accept, well, that much is up to you.” 2 likes
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