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Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
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.

The View:

“Ugly to start with” is not a book I would pick up randomly. It definitely does not fall in my “always-read” category but what surprised me was how much I liked the book as I kept reading through it. Yes, there were certain stories that I would have liked to skip through (only because of the uncomfortable topics) and a few that left me thinking about it for a long time. But the point is, the book is impactful and isn’t that what you would expect out of a book like this.

Jason is an interesting character who grows and evolves with each incident in his life. There are stories were you see different shades of him adding a surprise element to the character itself. I liked that all of his reactions were acceptable..nothing over the top or unbelievable… Just genuine reactions from a boy who grows stronger with each passing day.

The authors writing style is vivid yet simple. The small town boy growing up in a community that could otherwise be termed “dangerous” is done well. Emphasis still remains on descriptions of events and places that any other author would have done away with; but John Michael Cummings has stuck to the integrity of story telling by keeping it intact. I enjoyed this book and would rate it a 4 on 5. There a few stories that could have been done better, but for the most part it was more good than bad.



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