Monday, January 2, 2012

The Truth to Start With

Ugly to Start With
By: John Michael Cummings
Source: Author
Released on: Oct. 1st, 2011
Reported by: Julianna Helms

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.

-Summary from Goodreads

Ugly to Start With is a book about sexuality, racism, and abuse, among other things. It is not a light read--and it's not for everyone. What I can say about it is this: your perspective on several taboo subjects will change, and this book is just as thought-provoking as it is heart-wrenching.

Jason is this boy I never really could relate to, though that may be because of the things he goes through so early in life. He's a dreamer, but he's also afraid, and though that made me sympathize for him, it didn't make me entirely feel for him. I surmise I just never really recognized his voice. That's one of the reasons why this book didn't blow my mind away, but still, I was shocked and timorous about quite a number of the situations Jason faces in this book, and I feared for him as well as with him.

It's not easy being a teenager, Jason very well proves that. John is very bold in approaching several topics the way he did. But the thing is, the teenage voice is difficult to nail, and I felt like the lasciviousness and obscenity was superfluous and overwhelming. It distracted me for a while, and I can't say the excess content minimized as the story progressed.

Overall, though, this novel is sure to wreck your brain for answers you don't have, and astonish you with questions you never thought of. Despite its flaws, it offers you something you don't normally get--the truth. Brace yourself, because you're in for a whirlwind of emotions you won't be forgetting about very soon.

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