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Coming Soon:
~Review: The Killing Woods
~Review: The Waiting Sky
~Review: A Certain Slant of Light
~Review: Timepiece
~Review: Infinityglass

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Family

Family (ARC) by Micol Ostow
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pub. Date: April 26th, 2011
Pages: 336
Age Level: 15+
Source: For review from publisher.

Synopsis via Goodreads
i have always been broken.
i could have. died.
and maybe it would have been better if i had.

It is a day like any other when seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. Henry is the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry’s family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs. And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.

Told in episodic verse, family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to to make themselves “whole” again.

Evocative and gripping, Family is one of those books that, no matter how well you do or don't like it, will always linger with you long after turning the final page.

In general, I am strongly opposed to vulnerable, weaker characters. Mel, however, was different and crafted in such a way that I could understand and sympathize her vulnerability as well as care for her. She's emotionally scarred and broken, longing to find a way to become whole again. Her emotions were so raw, palpable and, despite some of the horrible things she did, I never could quite bring myself to lay blame against her. Throughout the story, Mel resurfaces and then sinks back down, in and out, of reason. As events progress, clarity comes to her more frequently and she grows to be more individually strong. While I could see the manipulative, bottom feeding personality of Henry, I could also see how someone like Mel could be drawn to and sucked in by him. I found this to be an excellent example of Ostow's ability to thoroughly craft her characters. One thing I think would have made Family even more effective, at least in my opinion, would have been if I could have received a better glimpse into some of the supporting characters, such as Shelly, Leila, and Junior. After getting to know Mel, I can't help but wonder about other character's motives for having joined the 'family'.

Family is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach as it delves into the complexities of cult life, not to mention the inclusion of drugs, sex, and murder. There is nothing 'light' about this book; instead, it's dark, deep, and intense. I was extremely captivated by Ostow's version of the Manson Family and the things they did. I actually liked that is was more loosely based, yet I still knew who some of the people were despite the name changes, something I felt provided a necessary sense of separation. While a relatively quick read, I occasionally found myself taking small breaks to allow myself to better absorb and process what I had just read.

Ostow's writing style is truly unlike anything I've ever encountered before. Family is told in verse but what is referred to as episodic verse, something different than what I'm accustomed to but found refreshing. There is no capitalization except for certain words which, at first, seemed odd but proved to be a very effective writing technique for this particular story and protagonist. The writing itself was beautifully expressed, exceptionally wrought, and poetically symbolic. However, there were times when I felt the symbolism, metaphors, et cetera, were over done, making the writing more complicated than it needed to be.

The ending was filled with both destruction as well as hope. I appreciated the fact that I could see how Mel had changed since the beginning and I found the way Ostow tied up this story to be very appropriate.

Family is a lovely, sometimes horrifying, and unique story that is sure to stand out amongst the YA genre. This is not something I'd recommend to everyone as I feel it is probably more of an acquired taste book. However, if you aren't one to shy away from the grittier, darker side of real issues then you should definitely pick this one up as it is well worth the read. I can honestly say Family is one story I will never forget and I look forward to reading more from Micol Ostow.

Characters: B
Writing: B-
Plot: B
Ending: B+
Enjoyment/Likability: B-
Recommendable: B

Overall: B

Cover: B-

Buy Family now: Amazon / Kindle / Book Depository


Sonia said...

Great review! I've had my eye on this for a while and I'll be putting it on hold at the library when it comes in. I'll have to wait for a time when I'm in the mood for something seriously, apparently, but it should be enjoyable :) Thanks!

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Wow, this one sounds very intense. I read another review that agreed with you about Mel - how she does terrible things, but is hard to hate nonetheless. That speaks volumes of Micol Ostow's talent as a writer because it is so easy to hate a character who does bad things, but that much more difficult to care for a character who you feel like you should hate.

Family will stay right where it is on my wishlist until I can pick up a copy once it comes out.

Shannon The Bookstalker said...

I'm really glad you reviews this one Briana, because now I am certain that it just isn't for me. Mel doesn't sound like a character I would like despite her situation and perhaps that's due to the subject matter. I think its just to heavy for me. Thanks for the great review though.

Melissa said...

This is one of the books that I've had my eye on for some time, so when I saw that you'd reviewed it, I wanted to stop by and check it out. The concept of the book is something that really strikes me - back in University I read a book called Trauma and Recovery, which discussed (among other things) the Stockholm Syndrome of Patty Hearst. The concept of this book sounds similar, so I wonder how the author would demonstrate how the subject plays out.

Thanks for the review.

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Georgia, United States
Hello all! My name is Briana, I'm 20, and I live in the beautiful state of Georgia. I love reading and photography.

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