Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Ugly to Start With

Title: Ugly to Start With Author: John Michael Cummings
Pages: 168 Genre: Young-Adult
Subgenre: Historical Fiction
The life of Jason Stevens is told through 13 short stories that can be read all together as a novel or each one by themselves and still get a good story, either way. Jason lives in the small, historic town of Harper's Ferry in West Virginia during the 1970's when life was determined by one's wealth, skin color, and town gossip. Each story shows a different moment in Jason's life when something , even if it's just something little, changes about him or his life. Jason wants to be an artist, but surviving your teen years in Harper's Ferry, especially when your father is the most-hated, racist, stubborn man in the whole region, is none too easy.
Ugly to Start With is real, raw and smart. The unique short story format focuses on Jason's change, rather than a set plot and plays to its own advantage, giving the already interesting story an edge. Every one of the stories brought me a little bit more of Jason and a little bit more of the dynamic and old-fashioned Harper's Ferry. At times it made me laugh as Jason would describe the strange traditions of Harper's Ferry. Other times it would bring me to the brink of tears or send a wave of pity through me. The whole time I was amazed (and maybe even a little shocked) at how deep the author went into and how real the whole community of Harper's Ferry seemed. I could just imagine these characters gossiping in their kitchens or barely making a living. It just seems impossible to not feel like these characters are something more than just people in a good story. The characters were definitely what made this book so good. Ugly to Start With navigated through risky topics, but did so very well using a great cast of characters.
Cover:I love this cover. The whole packaging of the book is gorgeous, to be honest! This cover could not be more perfect for Ugly to Start With.
Level of Romance: Medium? A little? I'm not really sure how to categorize this one because it really depends on which story is read. Jason is trying to find himself and I guess one could say it takes some romantic experiences to get there.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Warning: This book contains some mature themes that, in my opinion, require a mature reader. Recommended for ages 15+


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