- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: EgmontUSA; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1606841556
- ISBN-13: 978-1606841556
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,326,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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family Hardcover – April 26, 2011
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Given the young participants and the elements of drugs, sex, music, and hero worship, the Charles Manson murders practically scream out for a YA treatment. This free-verse interpretation is not the engrossing epic many will want, though some will dig the book�s surgical focus upon the psyche of one character: 16-year-old homeless abuse-survivor Mel. She meets Henry (our Manson stand-in) on the streets of San Francisco and, after an initiation via drugs, is incorporated into Henry�s family�a ragtag gang of drifters who believe Henry is a holy figure whose message will shake the world. Ostow�s yearning poetic language (i am only hollowed-out spaces. / i am only the opposite of matter) relies too much on repetition, and entire pages go by restating Mel�s mental state. The biggest issue is Mel�s lack of growth; she starts and ends as a cipher, making it difficult for the reader to appreciate Henry�s influence. Thankfully, Ostow�s Henry is fascinating, a pied piper hell-bent on reaching the masses, whether through love or terror. The subject alone should make this popular. Grades 8-12. --Daniel Kraus
"A fictionalized examination of cult behaviors in general and the Manson family in particular, told in episodic free verse, may not be for the faint of heart, but it makes for absorbing psychodrama. Any reader who knows the history will find tension from the first page, even as seventeen-year-old Melinda, the book's narrator, assures us she has found her savior in Henry, who will help her sever ties with her horrific family. Her new 'family' seems to consist of mostly drugged, sexually willing young women who vaguely resemble her, a fact that will be clearer to the reader than it is, tragically, to Melinda. Indeed, it is only far too late that Melinda snaps back into independent thinking, and readers are left with a deeply flawed protagonist whom they will nonetheless forgive and root for as she struggles, for a second time, to survive the choices of those around her. The portrait of the Manson-like Henry, viewed only through Melinda's adoring perspective, lacks some of the sharp charisma that one would expect of a cult leader; while this may make it more difficult for modern readers to understand how he gathered so many who were willing to murder and die for him, it also emphasizes the way environmental factors (drugs, lack of sleep, removal from the larger world) can play a dramatic role in the way cults expand and evolve. The short, sparse verses used in the 'after' poems elevate and chillingly lay bare the seemingly inevitable violence. Since it's a provocative exploration, it's too bad that there's no additional reading list, as readers will be interested in learning more about Manson and his followers." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"Given the young participants and the elements of drugs, sex, music, and hero worship, the Charles Manson murders practically scream out for a YA treatment. This free-verse interpretation is not the engrossing epic many will want, though some will dig the book's surgical focus upon the psyche of one character: 16-yearold homeless abuse-survivor Mel. She meets Henry (our Manson stand-in) on the streets of San Francisco and, after an initiation via drugs, is incorporated into Henry's 'family'--a ragtag gang of drifters who believe Henry is a holy figure whose message will shake the world. Ostow's yearning prose poetry ('i am only hollowed-out spaces. / i am only the opposite of matter') relies too much on repetition, and entire pages go by restating Mel's mental state. The biggest issue is Mel's lack of growth; she starts and ends as a cipher, making it difficult for the reader to appreciate Henry's influence. Thankfully, Ostow's Henry is fascinating, a pied piper hell-bent on reaching the masses, whether through love or terror. The subject alone should make this popular." --Booklist--Journal
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Ostow chooses to write in poetic verse, and the text has a dreamy stream-of-not-quite-conscious-consciousness quality. Her "Mel" is a bit of a cipher, but she's meant to be a Manson Everygirl and she succeeds in that. She does a good job of showing how someone could be seduced by the "Family" and by Charlie/"Henry". The book is weaker in convincingly showing how Mel was persuaded to take part in a grisly crime; her conversion to Henry-ism is almost instantaneous, and her narrative of her time on the Family's Ranch does little to show her descent. But perhaps no one could really fully show such a thought process in action.
The narrative style can also get frustrating; this is not a short book, and Mel's head-poems become a bit redundant. But I still give Ostow high marks for an interesting and original experiment.
I was wrong.
"Family" is about a girl named Mel who leaves her old life behind. She never knew her father; only her “uncle Jack" - her step-father who would rape her night after night - and her mother who would turn a deaf ear. Finally, one day, Mel decides to run away, and ends up running straight into the arms of Henry. Henry takes her to his ranch, where he lives with his family – a family unlike any other Mel has ever known.
This story is supposed to be loosely based on the Manson family. I have recently been very intrigued in the Manson family murders, so of course, like many other readers, was interested in reading this YA novel. However, I was totally disappointed. I read it in only a couple hours. I thought it was very boring, and that the words just repeated over and over and OVER. Also, I hated how the only capitalized words were Henry and His/Him, whenever talking about Henry. Also, the punctuation was terrible; it was so choppy and there were periods placed in the most ridiculous places. I’m sorry, but I’m such a stickler for grammar and punctuation, and so the weird punctuation and non-capitalized letters just bugged me. Also, I think writing this novel in verse was unnecessary – completely unnecessary. I think it would’ve been a lot stronger of a novel if it were written in prose. Don’t get me wrong – I love poetry. I also enjoy books written in verse, such as Ellen Hopkins’s books. However, I just didn’t like it for this book. I wanted more dialogue, more interaction, more story and plot.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into this novel. I didn’t like it at all.
Family is one of the most disturbing and terrifying, yet oddly captivating, books that I have ever read. As someone who only knows the barest facts about the Manson family murders, Micol Ostow's take on 17 year old Mel's descent into cult life is haunting and creepy. We get to see her slowly, but surely lose herself to this notion of family; which is ludicrous and all kinds of messed up, but for someone who has come from so little and so much pain, it makes sense to Mel.
I couldn't see the appeal or allure that Henry (the Charles Manson-esque figure) has. It's difficult to understand why so many people would follow him willingly and look at him like a Jesus Christ figure. Mel, Sherry, Leila, Junior, and all the people we don't hear from view Henry as a savior and a preacher.
Ostow solidifies this fact with her episodic verse, having Henry's name, His references, be the only things that stand out with capitalization. It's to ensure that he reader knows, without a doubt, that Henry is running the show. He has essentially brainwashed these people, forced their lives to revolve around him, and has put them into a drug-induced stupor at times, to benefit His own wants and needs.
Mel's life has become the Henry show and she's willing to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. It's incredibly sad. Mel's life before Henry was miserable, but her life after Henry isn't really a step up at all. At times, I wanted to hug her, but then other times I wanted to slap some sense into her; yell at her so she could see what's going on, that she has been indoctrinated into a desolate cult that's only purpose is to serve this Henry. What she's experiencing isn't love and even though a part of Mel knows that, she doesn't care. Her desire to be wanted and accepted - even if it's false - overrides the voice in the back of her mind that's telling her not to trust her situation.
Family is incredibly disturbing with its back and forth from the slow, despondent fall into cult life, to its hints of the danger that's to come. Ostow has taken a story that many have at least the vaguest idea of and expanded upon it, dropped the reader into an endlessly forlorn situation and done so splendidly. Episodic verse works in this situation, making each day more painful and fractured. Knowing that things are going to end in a bloodbath makes Mel's life that much more affecting and I was glued to the page.