Paperback, 168 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by West Virginia University Press
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.
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4 out of 5 (via goodreads)
Warning: others may find the book way too disturbing.
I had a hard time finishing this novel. Maybe because this is not the genre of book I always read but also I had a hard time because it was kind of disturbing in some parts. My first impression of the novel was a bit awkward and a bit innocent. But as I progressed with my reading, it was more of that. It wasn't that awkward and defintely not innocent.
The novel has thirteen different stories from thirteen different people. One link is about Jason and his experiences while he was growing up. His childhood might be the same with the other kids in some parts but majority is about how society is cruel to others in so many ways. His family is definitely not perfect down to their house, which I consider a bad one, and their place. I was kind of disturbed with how Jason described his family. He said that there were many things not to ask in his family and his Dad acting like an ape so he could win an argument.
There are some disturbing experiences Jason had while he was growing up. He was being picked for being a softy and also because he is the son of his father. His father also questioned him about his art and his love of it. One thing that played a major part while Jason is growing up was when he was being introduced to homosexuality and burden and comfort.
There are some lines in the book that I really find worth remembering and reflecting and these are:
*"It was my only comfort, my only recourse, too, for once I started crying, I found my place in the family again.Crying reminded me that I was the youngest and would always be the youngest."
*"Love, you see, was a word we didn’t say in our family."
*"In the moments after that, we stared so long at each other that I wasn’t sure whether his eyes were mine or mine his."
*"If you put two men together in bed, in the dark, neither, he said, would know the difference."
*"Life, I thought, was like finger-painting with a hopeless mess of gruesome colors. You kept smudging it around until you got it right.
*"She may have been poor and black and from Bolivar, but she knew how to put her arms around someone when it mattered."
And also one person that really left a mark to me was Rusty Clackford. He taught me that sometimes being silent will bring answers to all your questions.
As a whole, it was like Jason left me hanging. I want to know about what his life would be as time goes by.
What I like:
*The different people in every chapter
*how the chapters were being named
*Jason and how he lived his life while growing up.
"Whatever it was, if it was ugly to start with, or turned ugly,
we were ashamed of it and wanted it to go away."