I am not sure why authors contact me to review their books, my reviews seem so ameuturish and lacking in depth. But for whatever reason, they do sometimes contact me. One of those authors was John Michael Cummings and he asked if I would like to read and review his book, Ugly to Start With I am so glad he contacted me because I really loved this book.
First of all, this is really a series of short stories. Short stories, but they are all related around Jason Stevens, a poor boy, growing up in the 1970’s in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I believe that this book is considered adolescent fiction, however there are some adult topics and language.
I remember reading somewhere that it is actually more difficult to write a good short story because every word you use has to matter. These stories are the perfect example of that. They are sparse and direct, just like the life that Jason is leading. After each story, I would pause, I wanted to think about what I had read. What was the author telling me. These would be great to read with a reading group, because you would have someone to discuss them with. Also, each individual story would be great for a literature class, since each one leaves you with so much to talk about.
I enjoyed all of the stories, except for the one where a cat gets hurt. But even as I read it, I understood why it was in there. There are people who view cruelty to animals in almost a casual manner. I’ve seen people kick dogs without hesitation, without a thought.
These stories are like that. They are not happy-ever-after stories. They are gritty, raw, and thought provoking. Not my usual cup of tea, but I completely enjoyed them and will be passing this book on to my language arts teacher at work.