||Aug 24, 2010
"A humorous fable of how our families live inside us"
Barnes & Noble.com
Barnes and Noble
The Family That Wasn't
The Family That Wasn't is a humorous fable of how our families live inside us. Though geared for middle grades (ages 8-12), it will also appeal to readers of all ages. The 13-yearold narrator, John Boggle (whose real name is John Bazukas-O'Reilly-Geronimo-Giovanni-Li Choy-Echeverria), finds his family so impossibly crazy that he cannot stand living with them another moment. He invents a new perfect family so convincing that he suddenly finds himself living inside this imaginary world.
But John finds that he too has changed. He sees his too perfect image in the mirror and begins to wonder if it is all some kind of mistake. Only trouble is, now he can't remember who he is. He only knbows that he must leave this family at once. His sole clue is the name, John Boggle.
To find his true family he embarks on a cross country quest. Along the way he encounters other characters who have also lost touch with their families. Together they must find a way to reconstruct the connections to bring back the family that once was.
Chapter 1-The Boggle Curse
People lose families all the time. Sometimes itís a freak thing like a traffic accident or plane crash. And sometimes people just give up on each other through outright rejection or lack of interest. But you can never really lose your family completely. Even when theyíre gone theyíre still there inside you, for better or worse. And even if your old man is a complete jerk who beat you and your mother up every day and you havenít seen or talked to him for fifty years, thereís still that memory you canít erase. He will go with you all the way to the grave.
But now Iím not so sure. You see, I didnít just lose my family. I wiped them out. I didnít mean to do itĖthings just got out of hand. One minute they were here-Dad and Mom, Bruno, Venus, Grandma Geronimo, Sister Mary and all the rest of my crazy familyĖand the next, they were gone, every last bit of them, gone as if they had never existed.
I am writing this down so I wonít forget. I must never forget them. Did it really happen? Maybe I just made this all up in a dream. Have to admit, I do get carried away with my writing sometimes. But then, how do I explain what happened to Uncle Vinnie?
It all started with my name-John Boggle. Actually, it isnít really Boggle. Thatís just an acronym I invented to make life easier. My full name is John Bazukas-OíReilly-Geronimo-Giovanni-Li Choy-Echeverria, or B.O.G.G.L.E. for short.
I remember crying a lot in first grade. While the other kids quickly learned how to write their names on their papers, I would begin to write John Bazukas, and sometimes make it to OíReilly, but then get hopelessly lost. Finally, my principal, old Miss Vanderfield, wrote out the whole stupid thing for me on three long pieces of construction paper taped together, which I had to keep carrying around with me till I could remember how to write it. I felt like some creature in a zoo, stuck in a cage for everyone to look at, with a long Latin name printed over me.
Any one of these hyphenated names would have been all right with me. But no, my family had to go and have them all. How they ever managed to do this, and get together in the first place, is a tale far stranger than any I could ever imagine.
The Family That Wasn't: A Novel (Paperback) by Susan Barlow
The Family That Wasn't: A Novel (Paperback)
Thirteen-year-old John Boggle dreamed of having a perfect family - a wealthy family that recognized his talents and his value as a person. He didn't want the family that he actually had, which was crazy and annoying and living in poverty in Providence, Rhode Island. Hmmm...sounds like every teenager's fantasy!
But, through a strange turn of events, John's dream comes true, and he's suddenly John Bartlett - rich, adored by his parents, and living a sort of fantasy life in the beautiful Bartlett family mansion. So, what's the problem? Well, John realizes that this so-called life can't be real, and feels guilty that he somehow did away with his family. He tries to find his old crazy family, which he realizes is a lot more grounded in reality than the Bartletts and their stately mansion.
However, it's not easy to find the Boggle family. He undertakes a wild quest across the country, meeting up with various eccentric characters, who seem oddly familiar to him. The trip is made easier by having a supply of magic donuts in perpetual supply, no matter how many are eaten. The donuts aren't confined to traditional donut flavors and can taste like breakfast, lunch or dinner. This touch of whimsy makes the journey less dark and lonely. John encounters desert, plains, and caverns, sleeping wherever he can find shelter, and meeting people whose wise words start to sink in and build a new concept for John of what a family is.
I enjoyed this humorous, although sometimes dark, young-adult novel. It will appeal to both teenagers and adults who want to look at the joys and trials of family life in a new and thought-provoking way. Once the story got going, I didn't want to put it down, and read through the 119 pages at a gallop. I'm looking forward to the sequel that author Twaronite is writing.
The Family That Wasn't reviewed by John Burroughs, Midwest Book Review
The shame we have in those closest to us can lead us to very strange delusions. "The Family That Wasn't" follows the family of John Boggle, a thirteen year old whose family is not. Faced with the insanity of his real family, he creates something else to present to the outside world that is bought entirely. But truth is stranger than fiction and he finds his lie just may come true. "The Family That Wasn't" is a fine and very much recommended pick that shouldn't be overlooked.
Review: The Family That Wasn't
Itís interesting to me that The Family That Wasn't has been described as a novel that novel will appeal to both teen and adult readers, because while I was reading it, I just kept thinking, ďThis book is something I wouldíve read when I was in elementary school. Itís perfect for that age group.Ē Had this book been written when I was that age, reading Goosebumps, The Baby Sitters Club and The Boxcar Children, I wouldíve loved it.
The Family That Wasn't is an enjoyable read. I love the concept of being able to write your family out of existence, and replace them with your ideal family. Thatís something everyone can relate to. As much as I love my family, there are definitely certain quirks my family members have that I would love to write out of existence. I think kids especially will love that idea, as well.
I also like the fact that although this is a fantasy novel, itís not set in some other world with other rules that are difficult to understand. One reason I donít read a lot of fantasy novels is because theyíre set in fantasy worlds and they have crazy rules that I donít always understand. Even books that are more realistic fantasy, like Twilight, sometimes have rules that I just donít get, for whatever reason. That wasnít an issue with The Family That Wasnít, mainly because in the end, the experience of John being able to write his family out of existence, go on a journey, and find them again wasnít one that could be explained. I can see how this would be a problem for a lot of readers, because it could mean that the story isnít believable. But for me, it was never an issue of believabilityóI donít believe we can write people out of existenceóso I didnít need an explanation for how it was possible for John to do so. I liked the mystery behind it and the fact that not everything can be easily explained. I also liked the idea that if he wanted to, John could do it again.
Thereís so much in this novel that I think kids can learn from and love. I love it that even though John creates the ideal family for himself, even that family isn't perfect, and he begins to miss his real family. I think The Family That Wasnít also has the potential to show kids that itís okay to be creative and explore ideas like having an ideal family, while teaching them how to accept and love people for who they are. Itís a novel that I think kids will have a lot of fun with, and I love it that since thereís no real explanation for how John was able to write his family out of existence, they can come up with their own explanations.
I think kids will adore The Family That Wasnítóas someone who loves childrenís books just as much as teenís books, this is one that Iím thrilled is now a part of my middle grade collection.
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