Sunday, July 17, 2011


Family by Micol Ostow
Egmont, 2011
376 pages
YA; Contemporary; Verse
4/5 stars

Source: Library

A novel loosely inspired by Charles Manson and his Family.

Wow. This is a very different novel than I'm used to reading.  It's told in verse with almost everything not capitalized except for references to Henry, the cult leader based on Charles Manson.  His magnetism brings Mel, our narrator, and other broken young people into his family.  I didn't feel very drawn to Henry, which was unfortunate since his appeal is supposed to help us understand Mel and how she joins the cult.  But I was drawn to Mel and her description of Shelly, her sister within Henry's family. 

Of course, I have a long bias against verse novels, partially disrupted by Lisa Schroeder's The Day Before but also by this book where I thought the verse format served the story well.  As Mel is drawn deeper into the cult, especially with her drug use and attempts to distance herself from the outside world in order to be more a part of Henry's, the traditional format might not have been as effective.  Instead we got fragments and evocative uses of adjectives and adverbs. It was amazing writing even as the subject matter was difficult for me.

One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it inspired me to read a bit more about the actual history of the Manson Family, which is fascinating albeit horrific.  I knew about the Sharon Tate murder but I didn't know about any of the other murders nor did I know about his association with The Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson.  I also didn't know what Manson thought the Beatles song "Helter Skelter" meant.  Admittedly this is not light, easy reading but it drew me into the world and kept me turning the pages even as the violence escalated.

Cover: Whenever I'd see this cover, I thought that the white and red were both flowers until I got a closer look and realized that the red was blood. So that makes the cover both accurate and super creepy.

Read for Contemps Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. I have this on my tbrlist and now I know I really want to read this. It sounds really great. Not a big fan of versenovels, but this sounds so good that I must try this one. ;)


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