Boys and Plants and Magical Houses

So, when I bought the ‘Mostly True Story of Jack,’ by Kelly Barnhill–I for some reason thought it was going to be like this:

Not saying that I’m disappointed it’s not.  Jennifer Garner kind of gets on my nerves, and that little boy looks creepy as hell.

So what actually happens is that Jack’s parents are getting a divorce.  And while they ‘get things sorted,’ Jack’s brother goes to stay with friends, while Jack is dropped off at his aunt and uncle’s house.

Understandably, Jack is a little put out to be dumped in a weird house in the middle of nowhere with people he’s never met before.  Even though his previous home-life doesn’t seem that enviable—absent in all the family photos, he literally drew a picture of himself and pasted it in.  A little heartbreaking, that is.

And of course, the town that Jack’s been placed in is a little creepy, with his aunt and uncle’s house—the purple, green, every-color-of-the-rainbow house that seems to shudder and move, and also gives off electric shocks—well that’s the creepiest of all.

What Jack doesn’t know, and his uncle seems very slow to tell him (more a professor of the Socratic method I suppose) is that he is the key to the awakening of the town and it’s magical, nefarious guardians.

Upon arrival, after being almost ran-over by the town power player, tycoon Mr. Avery, Jack meets Anders, Wendy, and her twin brother Frankie.  Frankie was kidnapped several years ago, and mysteriously returned, speechless and with huge, red scars on half of his face.

Then shit gets complicated. 

Sitting on ‘faultlines,’ this part of small-town America is chockfull of magical possibilities.  Those used to be controlled by the Guardian, a woman that ensured that the cows got fat and the corn grew tall.  Somehow, Mr. Avery’s great-great grandfather, found a way to exploit that, arranging a trade of his son with the magical woman’s son; that somehow gave him mysterious powers while splitting the Guardian into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ personas.  That whole bit doesn’t really make sense, but whatever.

Anyway, so now the Averys have to trade their firstborn son out of every generation in order to keep the balance of things in their favor.  Also, there is an old school house that somehow eats kids—again, not really clear on that part.  The current Mr. Avery tried to trick the evil Guardian by substituting Frankie for his own son (even though his own son seems pretty abhorrent).  This backfired, Frankie was rescued, and the Guardian’s son went missing.

Three guesses who’s the Guardian’s son?

So now that Jack has unexpectedly returned, he has to reunited his mothers and save the town. Oh and one of his mothers (the good one) is his aunt and uncle’s house.  Or trapped in it or something.

I read this book twice before writing this review, hoping I could be a little clearer on what actually happens.  Maybe I just have poor reading comprehension, or maybe this book doesn’t totally make sense.

I’m not saying I hated it, because any book with magical houses and boys that are also made out of trees can’t be all bad.  I just don’t see it holding up through the years.  Just because a book is for children doesn’t give it the right to not make sense.


About rhymenocerous

rhymenocerous combines a fondness for hip hop with her love of the serengeti. Her soft spot for kids in space is eclipsed only by her passion for time-travelling children. She eats too much cake and frequently pretends her dachshund speaks French. View all posts by rhymenocerous

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