Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(Review) Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

"Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.

"Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.

"Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways."
I give it: 3.8/5 stars
*I received this book for review from the publisher. All opinions from this point are strictly my own.

     When I received a review request for this novel, I was ecstatic; I'd seen some very positive reviews from some of my close blogging friends. Ugly to Start With met the high expectations I set; I highly recommend this novel.
     Ugly to Start With was a collection of short stories from the perspective of one boy. The stories were told extremely well. The novel managed to narrate a difficult storyline believably without being offensive about the sensitive topics it covered. There was no transition from one story to the next and many of the stories didn't attach themselves to a place chronologically. However, rather than taking away from the overall storyline it added to its thoughtfulness. 
     The stories chronicle harder moments of Jason's life as he grew up. Rather than being offensive or upsetting, the stories had a tendency to provoke a lot of thought about what the author was trying to tell us about Jason and his life. Each story was complex, interesting, and thought-provoking. 
      I grew up in a small town, but much later than Jason and in a much more loving community. Ugly to Start With was not a novel I related to but it was an interesting read. I'd suggest this novel for thoughtful people and those who are looking for a thin but involved novel. 


  1. This sounds like another great book which I haven't heard of! I love the title, so different and interesting.

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

  2. It was! Thanks for commenting, Megan! I really enjoy interacting with my readers. :)