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.
Who'd think a fictionalized exploration of a cult based loosely on the Manson Family murders would work in verse form? But it succeeds.
This is a haunting tale of an abused girl who goes searching for love. She finds it with a very charismatic man, who's charm could pull in anyone who wants to believe. Reading this story brought back memories of me sneaking into my mother's bookcase and thumbing through HELTER SHELTER. Though I was just a child, the photos and descriptions of 'the family' chilled me.
The lyrical writing makes it easy to see why Mel would fall for a Henry. Some of the images are haunting and graphic. But what I love is Mel's final decision.
This story will stay with you with its glimpses into a cult and the power it has.