|A Place Called Ugly
There’s no reasoning with Owen. The island cottage where he and his family have spent the last ten summers must be preserved. And he’s going to do it. Never mind that a bulldozer stands outside, ready to move in and level the place for a modern hotel. Never mind that summer’s over and Owen’s family is hurrying to catch the last ferry—or that school is starting—or that nobody sees it his way. Alone, fourteen-year-old Owen is going to stay and save the beautiful place others call ugly.
Behind the Book
It was the end of summer and my family and I were visiting my parents who lived on an island on the New York coast. My son, Kevin, had been doing a lot of fussing about not wanting to end his summer’s vacation and go back to school. “Do I have to go? Can’t I stay with Grandma?”
At the last moment—needing to catch a ferry to the mainland, our car packed, good-byes said, I suddenly realized that Kevin was nowhere to be seen. Into my head popped the notion that he had run off and hid—anything to avoid going back to school. The next moment I realized that was a good beginning for a story. The moment after that—Kevin reappeared. He has gone back into the house to get something he had forgotten. But I kept the idea of the story, and that became A Place Called Ugly.
Another curious fact about this story: The house in the book—which is so important to it—was a place which I felt I knew, but didn’t know how I knew. It was some years after I wrote this book that I realized I had recalled a house my aunt had rented on the beach one summer—and I had remembered it, deep, deep in my mind.
Awards and Honors
Starred Review, School Library Journal, 1981
New York Times:
“Avi . . . may be starting a whole new trend in novels for young people. His hero, 14-year-old Owen Coughlin, is not on drugs, doesn't drink, likes his college bound brother and sister when they are around, and lives with parents who do not exhibit signs of getting divorced. His folks are in the same boat as are most adults who encounter Owen. They don't understand him . . . he gives the islanders a memory of splendiferous youth they will not forget. I found myself cheering Owen on all the way.”