Tuesday, May 24, 2011


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.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4 Stars...

This book made me realize that I really don't like verse form in novels. I'd thought that it could have been a particular author's style, but now I know that it's simply the form. Even though this isn't my favorite format, I have to say that the book was good, particularly if you love verse. I'm not sure if it was just the copy I had, but there were some very odd things with the formatting. The change in the type interrupted the visual flow and fragmented the page. Although it made an interesting parallel to Mel's fractured mental state, I did find it distracting. The setting felt very hazy and indiscriminate, which worked well with the atmosphere of the novel. Since Mel had no real clue or care as to where she existed, it made sense that the readers couldn't be certain of anything either. The plot often became garbled and I had a bit of trouble teasing it out at times. It didn't flow particularly well and if a few well placed items hadn't pointed the direction the story was to head in early on I would have been completely lost. The plot sort of meandered throughout the middle of the novel and then barreled forward at a breakneck pace near the end.

It's almost hard to analyze Mel as a character. I felt that I got a good feel for her mentally, but it's hard really say if I understood her thinking because of the verse form. I'm pretty sure nobody actually thinks in verse and I know that I don't. That made it rather difficult to connect with Mel's thoughts. Another issue I had was that although I felt for Mel I never understood her. Her issues and the effects they had on her are so far removed from my own experiences that I had a bit of trouble relating. Also, Mel exhibited relatively little growth over the course of the book. It seemed to be more of an exploration of her scarred psyche and didn't allow her to evolve. She would have made much more of an impact on me if I had noticed some forward development instead of a regression. On the other hand, Henry was a fascinating character. A large portion of it was due to the mystique he had for Mel and the rest of the "family". I also found him particularly well written... I could feel his magnetism through the page, especially how Mel always referred to Him with a capital H. This emphasized how much of a God figure he was to her and everyone around him.

Overall the book was not quite my cup of tea, but I can't deny that it was good. There were some frightening aspects of it, particularly how someone can be so damaged they let themselves be drawn into anything that feels like meaning. This is perfect for someone who loves verse novels or books with intense break downs of characters' minds.
Book from Publisher


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