Rubysbooks's Reviews > Ugly to Start With

Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings
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Feb 19, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 4-cups, ya
Read from February 19 to 29, 2012

Originally published at Ruby's Books


his was a very interesting book. Set in the 70s, the story shows you different chapters from Jason's life, a teenager living in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

The stories are all strong and some are sad and filled with so much irony it was a little painful. Jason is living in a small town, where everyone knows everyone and where you're judged by the size of your house or the street you live in or some other simple things, like is you nod or wave to your neighbors every day.

The book touches a lot of difficult, touchy subjects, like racism, homosexuality, cancer, alcoholism, poverty, physical abuse, but Cummings manages to combine these subjects so well and even though you might cringe at some point, you're still intrigued and you still turn the page, wanting to know more.

There were moments in the book where I couldn't relate to Jason at all, like in Ugly to Start With, when he rejects a cat because she was ugly, the same cat that had stayed by his bed when he was sick. I couldn't empathize with him, but I somehow understood his reasons for rejecting her. Then there where the moments where I completely understood him, like in We Never Liked Them Anyway, where he tries to lash out at the boy who's been bullying him for a very long time and Jason does that when the boy was hurt.

I loved the open ending. It kind of gave me a sense that Jason has the ball now, he can make the big decision of whether or not he should leave Harpers Ferry and become an artist or stay in his hometown and see his dreams ruined. Though part of me wanted a firm ending, the certainty that Jason will in fact leave his hometown and continue his education, I can see how that ending is an interesting subject to talk about and debate.

All in all, the books was a good read. If you're not bothered by the occasional cursing, then you should read it.
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