Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

Title: Ugly to Start With
Author: John Michael Cummings
Publisher: West Virginia University Press. 
Release Date: October 1st 2011
Source: Author
Genre: Young Adult
Pre-order the Book: Amazon

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.

Chapter Preview

Ugly to Start With is a book that has 13 chapters and each chapter represents a different story, but all the stories talk about Jason, a young boy who lives in West Virginia in the 1970s, and also talk about his family and his friends. So, in each chapter we have the opportunity to read about different issues and problems in his life, problems that kids of his age can find, like family problems, infidelity, sexuality, sex and racism.  
This book was a big surprise for me, first, because I hadn't had the opportunity to read a book like this before, and also because even though it talks about important things about real life, the author kept it very simple so it's really easy to read, enjoyable, witty and sometimes sad. I read it in one day (It only has 160 pages) and I couldn't put it down until I finished. And finally, because it's very realistic, and I'm sure readers of all ages will find similarities with their own live. 
So, what can I say? I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to young adults and adults who like realistic and short stories about boys and how they see the life they have around them. This book does not disappoint. 

Happy Reading!

I really liked it!

John Michael Cummings' short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. 
His short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007. His debut novel, The Night I Freed John Brown (Penguin Group), was the 2009 winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young People (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY for Black History Month. His short story collection, Ugly To Start With, will be published in October of 2011 by West Virginia University Press. 
A native of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Mr. Cummings has worked as a reporter, editor, teacher, and tutor, most recently at Seminole State College and Lake-Sumter Community College in central Florida. Website

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a good pick. Plus, I live near Harpers Ferry.


Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate it!