“Ugly” by Margaret McHeyzer


(Author: Margaret McHeyzer) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


To be honest, I feel somewhat guilty when I give a low rating to a book addressing issues as serious as these, like Ugly or This Is Where It Ends. But the thing is, with both of these books I have this nasty feeling that the topic has been milked. As far as Ugly goes, however, my main issue was not with the idea of the book, but rather with the writing style of the author.

First of all, I want to say something about the topic of Ugly: domestic violence is something horrible which should be analyzed and media of all kinds, including literature and the subsequent interviews and ad campaigns, should play part in in spreading the word against domestic violence and about its results. BUT, with Ugly, domestic violence seemed like a way to draw the reader’s attention to an otherwise sloppily and childishly written book. The author’s vocabulary is obviously lacking, because the word “ugly” was mentioned virtually in every single chapter and, a lot of the time, on every single page or even twice a page. The second thing, that actually annoyed me to unbelievable lengths was the constant use of the word “tummy“. You really can’t be serious. Out of all of the times where the characters were discussing stomachs, the actual word “stomach” was mentioned only once as far as I remember. And some of the instances of “tummy” were from a 25+ year old woman. If you still aren’t convinced:

“Lilly Anderson, get your ugly ass out here…”

“I don’t remember much about her, except I remember her telling me how ugly I am.”

“Then your ugly ass should’ve come when I called you, you stupid bitch. You’re fucking worthless, you ugly idiot.”

“At least it’ll be something in my tummy…”

“Right now though, my tummy takes precedence over the bag.”

“I can’t fit any more in my tummy.”

“He leans down and kisses my ever-growing tummy.”

On the character of Lilly, I can say many things, but the essential one is that despite all of the domestic violence which could, in a way, explain it, I still find it weird that she is so childish and mentally underdeveloped and yet miraculously she is suddenly capable of surviving pretty well in the adult world. I’m not even sure what the intention of the author was in writing her character, but I could not take her seriously and, to be honest, she was a bit stupid. McHeyzer would have you believe that Lilly, somewhere out of the picture, is pure genius, all of the other characters are smitten with her intellect and her capabilities and even though she was not studying medicine, she could do her husband’s homework. But out of the actual events which we followed and in which she had to act smart, she was such an idiot (for those who have read it already, I can give the events after she bought the shoes as an example). So you can’t really convince me she was some kind of an academic prodigy.

And then there was the stark contrast between the positive and negative characters. There was no moral ambiguity to any character, they were either completely over-idealized and like they was coming from a romance novel and not this “serious” domestic violence book: the goody-two-shoes cheerful best friend, the funny brotherly figure, the Mr. Right; or completely demonized: abusive father, dead mother always creeping somewhere in the back of her subconsciousness, monster husband. I’m not even sure these two sets of characters belong in the same book. They were too black/white to support the same story because there was no in-between space for character development in the terms of the book.

The writing of Ugly, in my opinion, was too complicated a task and especially so for the author’s style. She was torn between a serious topic and overly simple and childish writing style which lead to constant repetitions of not only words and sentences but entire events. And most of all, the ending was not convincing and totally unrealistic for the character of Lilly, which is also a bit of a let-down.

Therefore, if you are neither a fan of violence, nor of bad writing, you should stay away from Ugly.



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