3.16 (531 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 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.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Paperback | 376 pages
  • 133 x 203 x 21mm | 281g
  • Minneapolis, United States
  • English
  • 1606843931
  • 9781606843932
  • 1,781,847

Review quote

"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

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About Micol Ostow

Micol Ostow has been writing professionally since 2004, and in that time has written and/or ghostwritten over 40 published works for young readers. Her novel, Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa, was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) was named a 2009 Booklist Top Ten Arts Books for Youth Selection, a Booklist Top Ten Religion Books for Youth Selection, and a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and currently teaches a popular young-adult writing workshop through Media Bistro. She lives and works in New York City, alongside her Emmy Award-winning husband, Noah Harlan, and a French bulldog named Bridget Jones--who is thoroughly unimpressed by either one of them. Visit her at
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Rating details

531 ratings
3.16 out of 5 stars
5 17% (92)
4 22% (118)
3 31% (164)
2 19% (102)
1 10% (55)
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