DNF Review: Ugly by Margaret McHeyzer

Written by: Margaret McHeyzer
Release Date: October 26, 2015
Pages: ???
Series: Standalone
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Thanks so much to NetGalley for this eARC!


If I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to see.
If I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to feel.
If I were dead, he’d never raise his hand to me again.
If I were dead, his words wouldn’t cut as deep as they do.
If I were dead, I’d be beautiful and I wouldn’t be so…ugly.
I’m not dead…but I wish I was.

*This is a dark YA/NA stand-alone, full-length novel. Contains violence.


Around 70%. For a while I was going to finish it because I was curious to see how it ended, but then school started and my reading time was cut in half and I’m not going to waste what little I have on a book I’m not really enjoying.


I really wish I liked this book better than I did. I respect what the author was trying to do–show the effects of abuse on a young woman, and how, with the help of those who loved her and through her own strength, she survived the horrors of her past and built a life for herself. Unfortunately, the writing in the book was so cliche and lacking that, as much as I appreciate the intentions behind it, I can’t appreciate the book itself.

Most of the characters are just so one-dimensional. Stereotypical abuse victim, stereotypical abusers #1 and #2, stereotypical best friend, etc. Once you get beyond the tropes, there isn’t much to them at all. Lily, the protagonist, is by far the best developed, but even she feels thinly sketched out. Everything is completely black and white. Every other character is either perfectly supportive and thinks Lily is the best thing under the sun, or they’re cruel to her For The Evulz and probably kick puppies in their spare time.

It also doesn’t help that the dialogue is so cringeworthy. Nearly every line that Lily’s father and Trent said was so over-the-top, look-at-me-I’m-a-terrible-person that I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. It didn’t feel like the dialogue came from the characters–it felt like they were saying it because it was something an abuser would say. It felt more like a health class PSA than a book.

Actually, the overall writing is…not great. Lily’s voice sounds the same when she’s twelve, seventeen, and twenty-five. At first I thought it was intentional, to show the effects of her abuse. After all, having no contact with anyone but her abusive father her entire life would definitely have an effect on her development. But I kept reading, and even when Lily grew, her narrative voice didn’t.

Finally, certain bits of the book just seemed very implausible. For example, at one point Lily’s principal calls her to the office to tell her that she had been sent full scholarships from a bunch of universities she hadn’t applied to, and that admission officers from the universities (the top universities in the country!) had contacted him to find out why she hadn’t replied. Now, Lily’s GPA of 3.9 is a good one, but thousands of teenagers all over the country have GPAs that high and higher, and a lot of those teenagers also have extracurricular activities and leadership experience, and, oh yeah, actually applied to these schools. That kind of thing was overly convenient and just lazy writing.


Even if the portrayal of abuse was cliched, it was realistic. The long-lasting effects of the abuse Lily experienced were accurately shown, and watching her struggle to overcome them made for some genuinely powerful moments. Her growth and her journey towards hope and happiness felt true-to-life and very satisfying. I appreciated that Margaret McHeyzer directly challenged victim-blaming mentality and showed why it was so difficult for abuse victims to leave their abusers (but also showed that it could be done).

I also enjoyed some secondary characters, such as Lily’s best friend Shayne and Shayne’s husband Liam. They were so wonderfully supportive of Lily that it warmed my heart, and they were responsible for some of the funniest lines in the book.

At the time I left off, there was a guy who it seemed was being set up as a love interest for Lily. I like that, while said love interest was helpful to Lily, he was never credited as the one who “saved” or “healed” her; that honor would go to Lily’s friends and to Lily herself. There are so many stories about love healing someone from a traumatic experience that it was really refreshing to see Ugly deviate from that. (Also, he has a stutter, which isn’t something I’ve seen in his type of character before. That was a nice detail.)

tl;dr: I wish this book had been better written, because it has some messages a lot of people need to hear. Unfortunately, instead it was…this.


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