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The Mostly True Story of Jack

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  2,238 ratings  ·  418 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.
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Brendan Riley This book is meant for really anyone. But is more directed towards children/teens being that its mainly a coming of age story with some fantasy…moreThis book is meant for really anyone. But is more directed towards children/teens being that its mainly a coming of age story with some fantasy sprinkled in. But just because its a coming of age story doesn't mean its strictly only for children and teens.(less)

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3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,238 ratings  ·  418 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Jodi P
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
May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book just didn't do it for me. I love Luke Daniels as a narrator, and he did a superb job here, but the story just wasn't as fleshed out as it could have been. I think it was supposed to be a mysterious story, but instead I often just felt lost.

I was delighted by the enchanted beauty of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and was hoping to find that same magic here. Unfortunately, I never really got fully immersed in this story and so there was no enchantment for me.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, boy-book, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 --
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
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
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
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-stuff, teen, fantasy
I read a lot. And I read a lot of Fantasy. This is the first one in a while that has kept me thinking about it every time I had to stop reading. That I actually wasn't sure what was going on. And because the writing was good, not the opposite.

Jack has spent his life being the ignored little brother. But while I occasionally had to raise my hand at the dinner table, Jack has to draw pictures of himself to tape into photos. It's not until he is sent to his Aunt and Uncle's house that people start
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
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Kelly Barnhill is an author and teacher. She won the World Fantasy Award for her novella The Unlicensed Magician, a Parents Choice Gold Award for Iron Hearted Violet, the Charlotte Huck Honor for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the Andre Norton award, and the PEN/USA literary prize. She was also a McKnight Artist's Fellowship recipient in Children ...more
“A person's soul is bigger than his body. It takes root and lives in all who love him.” 22 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
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