Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Mostly True Story of Jack” as Want to Read:
The Mostly True Story of Jack
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Mostly True Story of Jack

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  2,074 Ratings  ·  396 Reviews
Newbery Medal-winner Kelly Barnhill's debut novel is an eerie tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice.

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.
...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Minli
Jul 22, 2011 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
...more
Erica
Oct 12, 2011 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 cliff ...more
Anastasia シ
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
hmmm... interesting
I used to read but now I don't It's bad I know
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
...more
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
Susana
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who liked reading Coraline



This is the third book I've read by Kelly Barnhill, and as the other two that I've previously read, it is exquisitely written. It is also atmospheric as hell and not proper to the faint of heart.
The story... you know those books that you get at the end, and you're heartbroken and slightly confused by what you've read?
Well, this is one of those, so heads up! Also, and I've probably mentioned this on my reviews of the author's other books (The Witch's Son and The Girl Who Drank the Moon), I don'
...more
Tessa Joy
Oct 25, 2011 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 Ja ...more
Amy
Jun 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
***May Contain Spoilers***

I did not like this book at all. This is not something I usually say about books. I would not include this book on my classroom's free reading shelves. The story itself was a good idea, but the way it was written was poorly done.

There was a severe lack of explanation throughout this book. The author was trying to be mysterious but took it was too far. She answered a few questions when she included excepts from the book that Jack read to get some answers, but that barely
...more
Steven R. McEvoy
Oct 22, 2014 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 down ...more
Mary
Mar 01, 2012 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
...more
Eva
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you've ever grown up in the mid-west, the imagery evoked by this book will be intimately familiar. It's a nice blend of creepy-children of the corn feel and fantastical magical realism.
Charlyn
Dec 05, 2011 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
...more
Jodi Papazian
Sep 15, 2011 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
...more
Cara M
Mar 14, 2012 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
Jul 08, 2011 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 H ...more
LeAnn Suchy
Mar 07, 2012 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
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: boy-book, fantasy, mystery, ya
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
...more
Barb Middleton
Feb 13, 2012 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
...more
Roberto Penas
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'll be honest - I read this book in two widely-separate sittings: a break of over three months - and it is not an "easy" read. The first time I read the library book and didn't finish - I bought it recently from B & N and polished it off. This is a unique book demanding mental engagement, a mystery adventure in small-town Iowa, surrounded by ripening fields of corn and blue skies. MG Field of Dreams this is not: Barnhill has created a very unique world and premise in the most unremarkable o ...more
Libby
Oct 01, 2011 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
Amy Holiday
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: posted-to-blog
This is a lovely, mysterious book, with a sympathetic protagonist, interesting side characters and a compelling setting. (The descriptions of the town made me want to visit Iowa like My Antonia made me want to visit Nebraska!)

Jack just wants people to notice him, and in Hazelwood, they do--in fact, everyone notices him a little bit too much. He didn't want to visit his "aunt" and "uncle," but once he's here he attracts the attention of a few neighborhood kids: a few friends that take him on summ
...more
Phyllis
Jul 15, 2011 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 c ...more
Danielle
Dec 06, 2012 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
Dana
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This story is truly captivating. It is suspenseful and well written and unique. It is the story of Jack, who has been ignored and felt invisible for all of his life, until his parents split up and he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Iowa. Suddenly, people notice him. A lot. He makes his first friends and learns that magic exists and he is a part of it. The setting and characters are richly and well developed and the story draws you into it just as the children are drawn in as well.
We f
...more
Natalie
Apr 04, 2012 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 smad ...more
Steven Stickler
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
About a chapter into this book, one fact became clear to me: Kelly Barnhill can write. She knows her intrigue, her foreshadowing, and her mystery. She is not afraid to throw in a dose of creepy just for fun. None of it is overdone, though. Jack, the central character, is a boy who has felt invisible most of his life. His parents don't seem to notice him and he moves through life almost like a ghost. All that changes when his parents divorce and he moves to Hazelwood, Iowa to live with his Aunt a ...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 --
...more
Jackie
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. The story was interesting but there were too many details not fully explained or explained poorly. This isn't a book I would tell you not to bother reading but it's also not a book I would recommend.
Gwen the Librarian
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, kidlit
This utterly original story pits two halves of Mother Nature against themselves after a greedy man learns to control the magic of the earth.

When Jack moves to Iowa to stay with his aunt and uncle, it is immediately clear that things in their town are very strange. For one thing, no one has ever really noticed Jack before, and here, many people can see him - enough for him to make friends, get into trouble, and be picked on by a bully. There's also a history of kids disappearing, a house that se
...more
Jodi
Jul 22, 2011 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
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Juniper Berry
  • Dragon Castle
  • The Boy at the End of the World
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
  • Bigger than a Bread Box
  • The Flint Heart
  • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
  • Vanished
  • The Inquisitor’s Apprentice (Inquisitor's Apprentice #1)
  • Secrets at Sea
  • Down the Mysterly River
  • Horton Halfpott; or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset
  • The Wikkeling
  • The Absolute Value of Mike
  • Young Fredle (Davis Farm, #2)
  • The Dragon's Tooth (Ashtown Burials, #1)
  • The Aviary
  • Addie on the Inside (The Misfits, #3)
828 followers
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
...more
More about Kelly Barnhill

Fantasy & Science Fiction Deals

  • Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Gold-Son
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard, #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Regulars
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Childhood's End
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Mirror
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Voyage to Magical North (The Accidental Pirates)
    $5.67 $2.99
  • Raven's Peak (World on Fire, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Swords and Deviltry (Lankhmar, 1)
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Rebel Wing (Rebel Wing #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Dracula [Kindle in Motion]
    $1.99 $0.99
  • The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Thickety: A Path Begins
    $6.24 $1.99
  • Stinger
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lost Voices
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Extracted (Extracted Trilogy #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Dragon Haven (Rain Wild Chronicles, #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Isle of Blood and Stone
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Spirit Hunters
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Haven (War of the Princes, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Immortal Circus (Cirque des Immortels, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Brilliance (Brilliance Saga, #1)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The Immortal Circus: Act Two (Cirque des Immortels, #2)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • A Better World (Brilliance Saga, #2)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • Written in Fire (Brilliance Saga, #3)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The Immortal Circus: Final Act (Cirque des Immortels, #3)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Secret of the Sirens (The Companions Quartet, #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Ocean of Storms
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Sword of Shannara Trilogy (Shannara, #1-3)
    $19.99 $2.99
  • Artful
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Chains of Command (Frontlines, #4)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Angles of Attack (Frontlines, #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Lines of Departure (Frontlines, #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga #2)
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Into the Dim
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Kull: Exile of Atlantis
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Fury (Blur Trilogy #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Gears of War  Aspho Fields
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Midnight Robber
    $9.99 $2.99
  • One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Taken (Taken, #1)
    $2.99 $0.99
  • Lion of Senet (Second Sons Trilogy, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • City
    $7.99 $1.99
  • You Suck (A Love Story, #2)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Chocolate Touch
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Storm (Elemental, #1)
    $6.99 $1.99
  • A Perfect Blood (The Hollows, #10)
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Mama Day
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1)
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Imitation (Clone Chronicles #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Infinite
    $5.99 $2.49
  • Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic, #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Mermaid's Sister
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Space Between Heartbeats (Betwixt #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Boundary Crossed (Boundary Magic, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Boundary Born (Boundary Magic, #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Kissed by Darkness (Sunwalker Saga, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Dragon Marked (Supernatural Prison, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Blood Kissed (Lizzie Grace, #1)
    $3.99 $1.49
  • A Glimmer of Hope (The Avalon Chronicles #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Celia and the Fairies
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Best Served Cold (First Law World, #4)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Valor (The Faithful and the Fallen, #2)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Last One
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Genesis
    $11.99 $1.99
  • To Honor You Call Us (Man of War, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard, #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers, #1)
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Wool: The Graphic Novel
    $7.99 $2.99
  • And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Ticker
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard (Barsk, #1)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Concealed (Lakewood, #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
“A person's soul is bigger than his body. It takes root and lives in all who love him.” 21 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.” 3 likes
More quotes…