Saturday, September 10, 2016

UGLY BY ROBERT HOGE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a slightly different review today, it is of a memoir instead of a novel, Ugly by Robert Hoge. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending a copy of this book to me for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I don't really read a lot of memoirs. I think I've read one, maybe two, but technically the second one was a collection of essays. Regardless, I don't have a lot of experience reading them, or even reviewing them.

Typically, I talk about character and plot points, the stuff that makes up the story. But with things like memoirs, you can talk about it, but it won't change the fact that that's what actually (for the most part) what happened, in real life. You can look back and want change things, but they didn't happen that way, so you can't. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this review won't be as critical as it will be more of a commentary.

This is the story of Robert, who was born with a tumour on his face and twisted legs. After a few operations, doctors were able to give him a nose and help him walk more comfortably with prostheses. However, people still stared. Kids still made fun of him. But Robert was able to learn to ignore the names and live the life he wanted.

Going in chronological order from birth, we get the story from Robert's perspective. We see the heart-breaking first month of his life, when his mother refused to see him, almost didn't want to take him home. But as Robert says, as hesitant as she was at the beginning, her love grew fast and fierce. Both of his parents supported him from the beginning.

The story then follows Robert through his elementary school days to middle school. He talks of the friends he made, the devastation he felt when he wasn't allowed to play sports, having to apologize to a school principal for the way he looked, that right there made my blood boil. I cannot believe that anyone should have to apologize to another person for the way they look. But, I suppose it was the 1980s and that was before my time and perception of peoples ability to accepting.

Even throughout all his trials, Robert always seemed to take things in stride. While many of the nicknames to this day still hurt him, he always seemed like such a happy go lucky kid. He was thriving in spite of those who wanted him to fail, in spite of his disability.

Technically, this is a middle grade story, focusing on his childhood, capping out at the age of 14. I enjoyed reading about his life, and would have loved to see more. After he made that final decision, what happened? According to the front of the book, he is married with two daughters, I would love to see him from 14 to where he is now, perhaps he'll write a second memoir.

The writing itself was very well done. While he was writing this story many years later, I could really feel like he was narrating it as a child in grade five. He told a story, but it was never over-embellished or exaggerated. It was pretty cut and dry, this is what happened. And I appreciated that style, especially for this memoir. I think there was a very high potential for the writing to swing it so you spend most of the book feeling bad for Robert. While you do feel empathetic, there is never the "woe is me" vibe. Robert was brave, braver than I am and never wrote to make you feel pity. If anything, I felt like I was reading the adventures of a young boy who had some obstacles.

I was also treated to the lovely drawings of some of the events in the story. I'm assuming they were done by Robert himself, but I'm not sure. They really added to the story, when things needed a little clarification, like the support made for Robert to lawn bowl, or just to add a little something extra.

Overall, I really enjoyed this memoir, and loved Robert's message of perseverance.