Libby's Reviews > The Mostly True Story of Jack

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill
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's review
Oct 07, 11

bookshelves: children, young-adult, scifi-fantasy
Read from October 01 to 04, 2011

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 they had to pay didn't seem to gain enough to make it worthwhile. They gained the same kind of power in the town that Potter had in the town from It's a Wonderful Life, but it didn't seem like the kind of power that would be enhanced by magic.

My other criticism is with the emotional ties--while the reader (who has the benefit of seeing scenes with other characters where Jack is not present) can tell that Clive, Anders, and Wendy are good guys, it seems to take Jack over half the book to come to that conclusion. Once he does, the action is going full-steam, and I find it hard to believe that he has as much time to get to know and love them as he does at the end.

Despite those criticisms, the book was an enjoyable read. I particularly like that even the bad guy has a sympathetic side. I would have liked to learn more about what happens to Mr. Perkins (a crony of the Avery's)--he seemed poised to make a moral turnaround.

Finally, the book ended well but not completely happily--this was impressively done, even more so given that it's a children's book (which I think makes such an ending harder).
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