When I was young (about seven or eight), I slipped a book off of my mom’s bookshelf and opened to a random page. My mom came into the room not ten seconds later, scolded me, and put the book back. Understandable, ’cause God Don’t Like Ugly by black-American Mary Monroe is not a book for seven/eight-year-olds.
Ever since I was fascinated with the book and was waiting for my chance to read it. I finally got that chance this year while helping my mom sort her bookshelf. I came across it, read the first chapter, and my mom let me borrow it so I can read the rest.
Guys, spoiler alert, but it was pretty good. At least, as good as seven/eight-year-old me hyped it up to be.
(copied and pasted from Amazon)
In her richly drawn debut novel, Mary Monroe brings to life the bond between two girls from opposite sides of the track—and the shattering event that changes their lives forever.
At the heart of the story is Annette Goode, a shy, awkward, overweight child who keeps a terrible secret. Mr. Boatwright, the boarder her hardworking mother has taken in, abuses her daily. Frightened and ashamed, Annette withdraws into a world of books and food.
But the summer Annette turns thirteen, something incredible happens: Rhoda Nelson chooses her as a friend. Dazzling, generous Rhoda, who is everything Annette is not—gorgeous, slim, and worldly—welcomes Annette into the heart of her eccentric family, which includes her handsome and dignified father; her lovely, fragile, “Muh’Dear;” her brooding, dangerous brother Jock; and her colorful white relatives—half-crazy Uncle Johnny, sultry Aunt Lola, and scary, surly Granny Goose.
With Rhoda’s help, Annette survives adolescence and blossoms as a woman. But when her beautiful best friend makes a stunning confession about a horrific childhood crime, Annette’s world will never be the same.
Set on the streets, porches and parlors of 1960s and 1970 Ohio, God Don’t Like Ugly sparkles with clear-eyed wit and uncompromising honesty. Readers will find this remarkable new novel full of laughter, inspiration, and pure enjoyment.
Title and cover
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but you have to admit that this book has a good cover. The painted art style and cool tones are half of why younger me was drawn to it in the first place. The other half is because of the title. I remember reading the title when I was young and being confused because I thought God was supposed to love everybody. Later, I realized that they probably meant ugly as in “ugly personality” rather than looks, but there was only one way for me to know for certain.
The characters in this novel are so well thought out and three-dimensional. Pretty much every character has their strengths and flaws (though some characters definitely had more flaws than others). If you’re a person who despises those perfect Mary-Sues, then this book is definitely for you.
The plot might be a little slow in the beginning (I kept wondering when Rhoda was going to come in), but once I got into it, it was difficult for me to put down! I wanted to know what happened next, not to mention I kept feeling close to the end. If I fell close to the end, even if there are 250 pages left, I’ll keep reading until I finish. For this book, what I thought was going to be the end actually wasn’t, as it continued for quite a few more chapters. Which is a good thing, as those chapters were my favorite of the novel.
Most of the novel takes place in the neighborhood Annette and Rhoda grow up in during the 60’s and 70’s. There is some drifting at the beginning of the novel and the setting changes again later, but for the most part, it takes place in Annette’s childhood neighborhood. Monroe does a great job of establishing the setting and making it come to life. Like I’ve said in the past, I often skip over setting without much thought, but I felt connected to it in this novel.
I’ll be honest, the novel is pretty slow. There’s a lot of exposition before the novel actually starts (which I had assumed was when Rhoda comes in). However, some of the best stories start off slow (ever hear of Homestuck? I know you’ve heard of Stephen King). Some books are worth the slow backstory and I think this book is one of them.
Good story, great characters. I really enjoyed reading this book so much I would spend a whole day with it (FYI, I always do this when I’m really into the story). As I said, the pacing was a little slow for me, but other than that, it was pretty good. Four stars ****
If you want to give this book a shot yourself, you can order it on Amazon*. WARNING: This book deals with mature and triggering themes, such as sexual assault and rape, sexism, pedophilia, abuse, and suicide. If you decide to read this, please do so with discretion.
*These links are affiliate links, meaning that buying from them will give me a part of the money at no extra expense to you!