Ugly to Start With
by John Michael Cummings
Other Reviewed Titles: None
Release Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: West Virginia University Press
Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars are 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.
Plot: This book is actually a series of short stories about a young boy named Jason. The stories are all pretty random, the only thing that connects them all is Jason. All 13 stories are events in Jason’s life that made an impact on his childhood. The first few stories focused on his family; on his mother, brothers but mostly on his father. Then the focus shifts and we start to see Jason searching for new friends and meeting a homosexual neighbor which leads to doubts about himself. There are a few risky subjects, some sexual content, especially in Carter, and strong language that you should definitely be on the look out for.
Characters: Jason is a very curious, smart and a big dreamer, but I didn’t relate to him. Although we are in his head the entire time and get to know him pretty well, there was just something...missing. It might have been because I’m a girl and I probably couldn’t really connect with the male perspective. But overall the characters were all very believable. My favorite would definitely have to be his mom; she was just everything you want in a mother.
Cover: I really liked the cover, it was simple which is definitely the opposite of this book.
Overall Impression: This isn’t my typical read and, had I not been contacted, I probably never would have picked it up, but I still enjoyed it. Definitely a good read for adults.
Rating: * * *
Thank you to the author for sending me the copy for review.