Kelly Vincent

Publisher: KV Books Pages: 342 Price: (paperback) $12.99 ISBN: 9781958342107 Reviewed: June, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

Uglier is an introspective young adult novel, the second in a series, following a young person’s search for identity and community.

Nicole, known as Nic, is a nonbinary high school student who has just moved to a residential school in the Oklahoma City suburbs. Nic’s life now is far different from her previous one. Here, when she corrects people for mistaking her for a boy, they generally apologize. Her art teacher creates an individualized plan to help her achieve her goals. Most importantly, she makes friends with a small group of people. They bond over science-fiction and fantasy novels, forming a book club to discuss them; a helpful reading list is given at the end. Watching her connections grow and deepen is lovely, especially with Mack, for whom a romance starts to blossom.

The novel also has plenty of conflict. A girl in Nic’s art class undermines her confidence in applying for a prestigious apprenticeship. This girl also reveals Mack’s secret, causing Nic to unintentionally say something hurtful that threatens her burgeoning friendship with him. Later, Mack discovers more about his sexuality that forces him to end his romance with Nic. This is the book’s most poignant part, showing her struggling with her heartbreak and shattered self-confidence, while maintaining friendships and academics.

Nic’s investigations into her gender and sexuality are mostly self-directed, and eventually she realizes she’s agender, meaning she has no affinity with either male or female. While joyful for learning the vocabulary to understand herself, she wonders how to tell family.

The novel focuses on Nic’s life at school, with quick summaries of visits home. While Nic tells friends of her brother’s hostility towards her gender identity, not depicting these scenes feels like a lost opportunity to add tension.

Regardless, readers looking for a thoughtful, coming-of-age exploration, with a unique, compelling main character, will enjoy Uglier. (Note: although this stands alone, familiarity with the previous installment will help readers better understand Nic’s journey.)

Also available as an ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Renton, Washington
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