Release date: August 24, 2010
Summary (from Good Reads): The Family That Wasn't is a humorous fable of how our families live inside us. It will appeal to both teen and adult readers. The 13-year-old 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 knows 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.
It’s 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, “This book is something I would’ve read when I was in elementary school. It’s perfect for that age group.” Had this book been written when I was that age, reading Goosebumps, The Baby Sitters Club and The Boxcar Children, I would’ve 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. That’s 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, it’s not set in some other world with other rules that are difficult to understand. One reason I don’t read a lot of fantasy novels is because they’re set in fantasy worlds and they have crazy rules that I don’t always understand. Even books that are more realistic fantasy, like Twilight, sometimes have rules that I just don’t get, for whatever reason. That wasn’t an issue with The Family That Wasn’t, 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 wasn’t 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 isn’t believable. But for me, it was never an issue of believability—I don’t believe we can write people out of existence—so I didn’t 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.
There’s 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 Wasn’t also has the potential to show kids that it’s 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. It’s a novel that I think kids will have a lot of fun with, and I love it that since there’s 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 Wasn’t—as someone who loves children’s books just as much as teen’s books, this is one that I’m thrilled is now a part of my middle grade collection.
Overall rating: 4/5
Cover rating: 5/5