July 09, 2012

Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings Review

Ugly to Start With
by John Michael Cummings
Published on October 1st 2011
West Virginia University Press, 168 pages

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.

- Goodreads.com description

The story is set in the 1970s. His father was a tipical man of history - you know, like only the man has a say in everything. The wife was closed in the kitchen when someone arrives at their home. He was kind of mean to their children. Uh, I didn't like him. But at least his mother stood up at one point and I was glad about it. 

The writing of this book is really good. The author made a good job with it ;) The story on the other hand, well, it's a story I've never came across. It's different. And the point of view of the main character was.. disturbing. To him, everyone is a fool. His friends. Other people. I think the only person he has a good relationship is his mother. As an almost psychologist I had a hard time connecting with him.

The main character, Jason, is well, in my opinion kind of weird. There was a chapter with a cat. You all know what a kitty person I am, and when I saw how he didn't like his cat anymore because she became ugly - meaning - she fought a lot and and her fur wasn't perfect anymore. I was shocked. I was petting my cat and reading and then I just stared at my cat and thought, my dear Muri, you will never ever be ugly to me. And also, in one chapter the father of two sons, which were kind of friends with Jason, had been accused of sexual harassment. And Jason shown no empathy at all. He was laughing at them. And I was like "What? You can't laugh at people who are suffering". Really, I didn't get him.

I've read only half of the book, because I couldn't connect with the story or the main character. BUT, I must say, that this book isn't my genre or any kind of genre I've ever read.  I usually read different kind of stories. So people interested in reading about history, small town life and the difficulties about growing up would love it! This book, interlaced with 13 short stories also won an award after all :) So, I guess it was me, because I've found it really difficult to connect with the main character and reading about history really isn't my thing :P 

And because I haven't finished it, I decided I won't rate this book. It would be unfair :/

Also in this occasion, I would like to wish John Michael Cummings a happy birthday! :) I wish you all the best, and may all your dreams come true ;) 

And I'm really sorry that I didn't like this book as much as I hoped I would :/ 


4 comments :

Sophie said...

I just reviewed the same book and had a similar verdict, it was interesting, but not my kind of story. Great review though!

Sam said...

Wow... this does sound pretty different. Thanks for the review, Nea! I don't think it would be my type of book either but it seems interesting.

And yay! Happy birthday to the author! :)

Liviania said...

I just got a review request for this book. Wasn't sure whether to do it or not, but I was kind of leaning toward no anyway.

Mimi Valentine said...

Aww, Nea, I'm so sorry this book fell flat for you! Sometimes I just can't force myself to read a book if it isn't for me either, so it's alright if you couldn't manage to finish this one :) You were still really respectful yet honest in your review, mentioning that this is just your own opinion, and I love it!

Wonderful honest review, Nea! <3 :) And happy birthday to John!

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