I don't really know how to start this review. I have so many things to say, but when I go to write them down my head empties. This book was so rich with emotion and reality that it is hard to describe.
In Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings, each chapter could stand alone, with a specific message, a different issue touched on. My favorite was probably either the first chapter "The World Around Us" or the second to last chapter "The Scratchboard Project". I like these best because the relationship with the main character and others is more of a positive one. While the chapters do go together, they are not as cohesive as I might have normally liked. However, in this book, I like the feeling of having just snap shot memories and moments. It reminded me of a photograph album that would never actually be able to be made. While the experience is there, the photos taken, these are moments which would never have been caught on film, and the people in them would have never wanted them to be. Each character, even though the reader only met most of them for a chapter, had personality and a face. Each one was specific and different and heartbreakingly real.
The chapters were vastly different and so were the issues mentioned with in them. Cummings hit on sexuality, racism, alcoholics, adultery, and others. There were things that shocked me and left me horrified, while other times I was smiling even just for a moment. I feel that this book really hit home with what it means to be a teenager in the 1970's, to be in this environment of constant social issues and arguments while trying to make something out of yourself, even if no one else believes or cares if you succeed.
This book reminds me a little bit of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros because of how each chapter can hold there own, and is a different story per chapter. However the main character of Ugly to Start With reminds me more of Holden Caufield, in the way that they are both teenagers who are sort of sulky, despairing and depressed.
I give this book a 3.25 because I think the book hits on a lot of hard issues and that is what made me a little bit more uncomfortable and dislike it a little.
Favorite Quotation: "There was this huge, filled up world all around us that I couldn't see." (p. 7)