Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.



4.1 10
by Micol Ostow

See All Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this novel in verse, based on the Manson Family murders, Ostow (So Punk Rock: And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) delivers the harrowing story of 17-year-old Melinda, who flees to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district to escape her sexually abusive "uncle jack." Weak and unstable, Melinda is seduced by Henry, the charismatic leader of a cult, who presides over a group of lost souls on a remote ranch, and she quickly gets in over her head ("i had that sense about Him, overwhelming, enveloping, cloaking:/ He. was. right./ He was inescapable"). When Henry plots a violent mission, no one can refuse to go along. A mix of pared-down poems and more developed paragraphs of text, the form matches the content, which is dark, mesmerizing, and hazy; the only capital letters are in reference to Henry, emphasizing (if a bit blatantly) his godlike power over his followers. The narrative shifts between Melinda's past, present, and bloody future suggest the inevitability of her descent and mirror the steady pull of the tides and undertows she describes as dragging her down. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Lynn Evarts
Melinda Jensen has run away because she can no longer take the constant sexual abuse of her "uncle" or her mother's refusal to acknowledge and stop it. There, on a park bench in San Francisco, she meets Henry. Henry promises Mel the one thing she has never had—a family—and after several days alone with him in his van (complete with drugs and sex), he takes her to his home. There on the ranch she finds the love and acceptance she never found at home; she also finds that the family shares everything and that Henry is the undisputed father of the clan. Told in verse, Mel's story alternates between time periods, with several chapters titled "After." Slowly the reader comes to realize that these chapters take place after a horrendous murder in which Mel is involved. The book cover states that this book is a "fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969." All of the pieces are there: the young person with nonexistent self-esteem, the charismatic leader, the psychological manipulation of the group members, and the final, horrible result. Ellen Hopkins fans will appreciate the use of verse to tell the gruesome story. Those who know the details of the Manson murders, particularly those who have delved into Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (Norton, 2001), will quickly notice the similarities between real life and fiction here. This is not a book for every reader because of the violence, but it is an interesting psychological study of cults and the lost souls they attract. Reviewer: Lynn Evarts
Kirkus Reviews
A vivid but ponderous exploration in verse of late-1960s-California cult life. Mel, broken by her uncaring mother's sexually abusive boyfriend, "Uncle" Jack, runs away from home with no plans beyond getting to San Francisco. Once there, without food or money, she's a sitting duck for the charismatic Henry, who promises Mel a new life with his family of "love and openness and / everyone caring," among whom she can be made whole and free again. Mel's embrace of family life, with its communal meals and shared sexual partners, is enthusiastic but not wholehearted: She easily recognizes the emotional damage in all of the family members and steers clear of the worst of the bunch. Eventually Mel begins to worry that Henry, who has always seemed "infinite" and healing, is just as shattered as his followers. Like Charles Manson, on whom he is clearly based, Henry was traded by his mother for a pitcher of beer and has pretensions to fame as a prophetic folk star. After an apparent snub by a music industry executive, Mel can tell that "Henry cannot restrain His infinite want. / cannot still the undertow within." Unfortunately, Mel's journey is a little too clichéd to be believable—of course her emotional damage is due to sexual abuse—and her voice, full of repetitions of ominous phrases, is too mannered to be engaging. (Historical fiction/verse. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Mel decides to escape from her broken, sexually abusive home. Finally free, but far from unscathed, she parks herself on a bench in San Francisco where she is "saved" by Henry. He takes her first into his van and then to the ranch where he lives with his "family," a group of other young, broken people (many of them attractive young women like Mel) for whom the sun rises and sets on Henry. The family members share not only chores like cooking and laundry, but their bodies as well. As Mel's time at the ranch lengthens, she becomes increasingly concerned about Henry's anxiety and sinister rumblings. Much of the book is based directly on Charles Manson and the Manson Murders of 1969. Through Mel's tale, Ostow ostensibly aims to dig into the cult mentality and to discern how someone could be pulled so blindly into a madman's orbit. The verse format proves an apt choice to relay Mel's scattered and frenetic thoughts and the use of capital letters in He and Him reinforces the idolatry of Henry without being heavy-handed. Yet while Mel's cycling over and over and over about Henry filling her hollow places, her love for a fellow cult sister, and her abusive stepfather might simulate the mindset of a cultist, the repetitious thoughts become tedious. Still, Family will prove a worthwhile read for teens intrigued with the subject matter.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
900L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

The only thing MICOL OSTOW enjoys more than reading and writing is being scared out of her ever-lovin’ wits. When she was 12, her father gifted her with a copy of Helter Skelter. Needless to say, it made an impact. 

Micol is the author of So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens, and which Booklist called “a rollicking, witty, and ultra-contemporary book that drums on the funny bone and reverberates through the heart.” She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and currently runs a popular young adult writing workshop through MediaBistro.com.

Micol lives and works in New York City with her filmmaker husband and a finicky French bulldog. Visit Micol at: www.micolostow.com.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Family 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Answer the question
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was really difficult to get into this book. The format was a little strange, as well. To someone who has never heard of the Manson Family, this may seem like a compelling story, but to me it was just a retelling of actual events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi remember me? from hamsters result 1. What are you guys doing?
J_ibbs More than 1 year ago
I first read this book about a year ago. Since then I have read it at least 12 times. I was a little skeptic at first, but towards the middle of the first chapter I could NOT put it down. I finished this the first day I bought it and is probably one of my favourites. The author did a wonderful job with this piece, it's very captivating and nice to see a view on the Mansons, other than what the media portrays. I have recommended this book to everyone I know, and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about getting this book. It will NOT disappoint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi...I got locked out of first result
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really hard to follow. The type.of verse that it was written in was definitely hard to understand.
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars 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.
adm912 More than 1 year ago
Told in verse it's a chaotic yet deep read. Loosely based on the Manson family it gives you insight as to how or why a young girl would fall into a cult.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago