Tag Archives: #hubchallenge

The Hub – April

I fell well short of my goal of 12 books in April by only reading 5 books. It was crunch time with projects for my two classes, and when I’m stressed, I end up reading brain candy. Now that the the worst has passed, I plan on focusing on Hub books again.

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
I didn’t like Brave as much as I liked Awkward, but that is a personal thing and not a reflection on the quality of the story. Chmakova does a wonderful job of capturing the awkwardness and nuances that encompass middle school. Jensen is frequently bullied by both his “friends” and other students. He is oblivious to their bullying, though at the same time has created a self-defense mechanism. It takes someone outside of his normal social circle to open Jensen’s eyes to the bullying. And then Jensen has to find the courage to stand up for himself.

Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1 by Keith Giffin and Howard Porter
My initial thoughts after I finished was the storyline had a lot of potential – I really wanted to see the actual cause of the apocalypse. I liked that while the characters were still essentially their classic selves, the author had made some interesting changes. However, my wonderful sister read it as well, and pointed out the various flaws with the characters that escaped my less than critical notice. Daphne was a complete jerk – she could have been a strong badass without treating others with contempt. And Velma was turned into something of a coward.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
I find short story collections in general to be hit or miss. This is more of a personal preference since I like concrete endings as opposed to a suggestion of the future or an allusion to what it’s all about. That being said, three stories stood out to me as favorites, “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” “The Difficult Path,” and “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn.” These stories felt complete at their conclusion, with the characters either learning something about themselves or their potential place in the world around them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander/J.K. Rowling
The only flaw to this book is that it wasn’t also a visual component (meaning, a cartoon I could watch). Between Eddie Redmayne’s narration and the sound effects, it would be wonderful to see the images and actions the sound effects represent. Regardless, my imagination had a field day.

 

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
I wasn’t sure about Roughneck at first. I’m not a fan of Lemire’s drawing style, finding it too choppy and angular, but he is an amazing storyteller. The illustrations fit with the tone of the story, and the use of color (or lack thereof) to differentiate the present from the past made the reality of Derek’s and Beth’s lives that much more poignant. It is a story of coming to terms with the bad events and decisions of your life, and finding peace and redemption in that acceptance.

The Hub – March

The first month of Hub reading is over! My goal is to read 12 books per month (at least until I’m finished with my semester). In February, I completed 11 books and DNF’d one book. Most of the books were either audio or graphic because I don’t have the mental time to sit down and focus on a book. Most of the books were in my reading comfort zone for this reason.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
This was an interesting imagining of how a 18th century boy became Santa Claus. There were definitely dark moments, but at its core, the story was about the importance of hope, goodness, and not giving up. The magic and the humor made it a fun read, enjoyable to both children and adults. And of course, Stephen Fry was the narrator for the audio version.

 

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
I loved that David Tennant was the narrator (he was the reason I listened to this book). He was wonderful with the various voices – though I could have done without the random sound effect explosions, especially when I was driving. The story was great – I loved Cowell’s idea of witches and what they meant to the rest of the characters. However, Xar was selfish, self-absorbed, and utterly convinced of his own greatness, to the detriment of those around him. I’m assuming he will grow as a character and realize his errors, but I have no interest in being there to see that happen.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
I can see why YALSA thought it would be a good YA crossover. The story moved quickly, and Murderbot, for all that he was a ‘droid, was incredibly relateable. He was fairly apathetic about his existence, his job, and humans in general. His main desire was to have uninterrupted tv-watching time. While Murderbot didn’t completely lack emotions, he did try to quash them. Towards the end of the novella, he did start developing some level of attachment to the crew. I am looking forward to reading the remaining three novellas in this series as they are published.

My Brother’s Husband, Omnibus Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
As an introvert, I had trouble with the beginning of this manga. The thought of having a large, loud stranger show up unannounced at my house would give me a huge amount of anxiety. Until the story got rolling, there were times I had to put the manga down because I found that situation stressful. My personal issues aside, the story itself was very good. Thought at times the story veered into educating territory – meaning the narrative felt it was attempting to teach instead of allowing natural interactions between the characters – it was an enlightening look at a man’s attempt to understand and accept his brother’s choices and his own personal prejudices. I liked how Kana’s social innocence was used to create the bridge of understanding and acceptance.

The Backstagers, Vol 1 by Jamie Tynion IV and Rian Singh
Generally I don’t have an interest in theater, front- or backstage, but the added magical element put The Backstagers in my reading realm. It was a good balance of adorable and creepy, both elements working well with each other. I loved the cast of characters and their (somewhat dysfunctional) dynamics. The McQueen brothers especially were entertainingly over the top. I want to learn more about the magic tunnels, and what happened to the 1987 backstagers.

Black Hammer, Vol 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
I love the story idea of a group of superheros transported to an alternate universe, and how they would cope with being stuck there. This volume was mostly set up and character backstories. I plan to keep reading this series because the set up at the end makes me want to learn more. What I didn’t like (and this is one of the main reasons I don’t read traditional superhero comics) was the illustration style. I have a really hard time getting past how faces are sketched out. There are too many random lines and it can be hard to determine what emotion the character’s facial expression is supposed to convey.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
This is the second time I’ve read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and it is still an amazing read. McGuire has a wonderful cadence to her writing that lends to the fairy tale feel of the narrative. The subject matter is dark, but it is balanced with the flaws and dreams of Jack and Jill. They are broken and far from perfect, and I love that the story showcases that there is no one right way to be a girl.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I read Scythe last year for the Hub Challenge, and I listened to it this year for the challenge again. The story is suited to both formats. After reviewing what I wrote last year, I still agree with my thoughts on the enjoyment of watching Citra and Rowan learn about the rot that pervades scythedom, and how they decide to tackle it. Citra grew me this time, and I enjoy how both her and Rowan compliment each other in their approaches. She is definitely closer to the white hat side of the spectrum, but she is good at manipulating the system. I am looking forward to seeing how things progress in Thunderhead.

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
This was a fairly fast read – it helped that the chapters were fairly short. I liked that the chapters alternated between the present (June and her initiation into the world of avtomats, and her quest to find a way to save them) and the past (Peter and Elena’s story from the 1700s forward). The story was enjoyable, though it felt like there were plot explanation holes.

 

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
Lighter Than My Shadow is definitely an uncomfortable read. Watching the adults in Green’s life fail her as she suffered from various eating disorders and sexual assault was hard. From the teenage perspective, I could relate because I had issues with food and regulation when I was in high school. It was so easy to go down that path because it was one of the few things I could control. From the perspective of a parent, I truly hope I never minimize and invalidate my children’s feelings and reactions the way her parents did. They were oblivious to how harmful their platitudes were. Both Green’s parents and doctors interacted with her only on a superficial level and didn’t really look at “Katie”.

Jonesy, Vol 1 by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle
I’m going to start with the fact that this is not a comic for me, and that I have zero interest in reading future volumes. I can see why it would appeal to readers, especially teenagers who feel like they are on the fringe of things, but I found Jonesy to be selfish, obnoxious, and fairly shallow. I couldn’t handle how annoying and spiteful she was.

 

**DNF** The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I listened to about one hour before I had to DNF it. While the writing may have been lyrical on paper, it did not necessarily translate well to audio. The story was boring and felt monotone. I don’t know if this was due to the narrator or the writing, but I had a hard time listening.

The Hub Challenge is Finally Here!

We’re just going to start with this:

Because holy cow…I have been waiting since January 1st for YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge to go live. I have been checking their blog multiple times per day for the past few weeks looking to see if anything, anything at all was posted about it. They trickled out award and top 10 lists, so I have been able to start building my TBR list (first round of books shown below).  I read 37 and 34 books respectively in the previous two years, but I am fairly sure I will surpass both of those numbers. This year’s list is most definitely going to take me out of my YA reading comfort zone, and I am looking forward to it.

Nine of the twelve books on my Round 1 TBR are pictured above. The remaining three are A Boy Called Christmas (they had me at Stephen Fry), The Wizards of Once (they had me at David Tennant), and The First Rule of Punk (a book of Bean’s that is currently buried somewhere in her room). Three of books are rereads – Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Spill Zone, and Kindred (though in a different format). All three were great books, and I am excited to read them again.

The Hub – June

June was the final month for 2017 Hub Reading Challenge. I only had five books left that I wanted to read. I managed to finish three, DNF’d one, and the fifth on – Burn Baby Burn – was set aside because I had library books that were due and couldn’t be renewed. I do plan on reading it at some point in the near future.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle
My sister has been after to me to read this book since it came out last fall. I was surprised at how much I connected with this book. In part because of the realization that I am guilty of the negative perceptions Doyle points out. She does a good job conveying the hypercritical expectations set for women, not only by men, but by women themselves. We’re all guilty of the schadenfreude surrounding “trainwrecks”. It is so easy to look down upon women who don’t follow the stringent rules they’re expected to obey. When they step out of line, their worth and legitimacy vanishes. It is an exacting double standard. A man and woman can follow the same path, but the man will recover being seen as a survivor. The woman, however, will be forever tarnished and less than. People will glory over where she went wrong.

The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon
A book that makes evolution interesting by focusing on some of the weird and grotesque adaptations that have allowed various species to succeed. The tone is tongue in cheek, and does not take itself seriously. The chapters are also short, so it’s an easy book to read a bit, put it down, and come back to it later. Some of the adaptations I knew about (the wasps and fungus that turn other creatures into their zombie nursemaids), but others were unknown (such as the snot-ejecting hagfish and sea cucumber-anus inhabiting pearlfish) and I am now slightly traumatized with knowledge that will never leave my brain.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
This is a hard book to read. It’s a pulls-no-punches look at rape culture, dealing with sexual assault and its aftermath. Part of what makes it a hard read is because the main character, Emma Donovan, is not a likeable character. She is vain, selfish, entitled, and jealous of her friends. She is exactly the kind of girl whom everyone would say she was “asking for it” if she were raped or assaulted, and no one would offer any sympathy. I’m glad O’Neill wrote about someone like Emma because (as written about in Trainwreck) some women are more valued than others based upon how well they toe the line of appropriate feminine behavior, as deemed by society. Even with concrete evidence of the boys’ disgusting behavior, the town still considers them the victims of a “drunk and regretful” girl. Readers watch as Emma spirals downward in her own despair, as her family becomes pariahs, even as the town rallies behind the boys. One of the hardest things for me, was how her parents, especially her father, treated Emma – before she was raped, after she spoke with the police and became and international news sensation, and after she made the decision to drop the charges. A happy ending, it is not…but it is definitely a realistic one.

DNF – Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
I cannot convey how boring and unegaging this book was. It felt like a contrived mash up of Little House on the Prairie and demons/psychotic episodes. There was absolutely no dramatic tension. Allusions to Amanda’s psychotic episode during the previous winter ended up being more annoying than intriguing. I ended up skipping around in the story to see if it got any better, but it didn’t.

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The Hub – May

May was my burn out month for reading challenges. This wouldn’t necessarily appear to be the case because of the number of books I read, but I had a run of books that were either unimpressive or DNFs. It feels like there was a better book selection last year, or I at least had a better connection with the selection. That being said, some of the best books I’ve read so far this year were Hub books – The Truth About Forever, Along For the Ride, and The Female of the Species.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was enjoyable enough, and the concept was unique and well-thought out. My problem was with the main character. I had a hard time with her bull-headed devotion to her special snowflake status – the dream that she could be the queen even though she failed miserably at all of the requirements necessary to even be considered as a candidate. Adapt and overcome, and sure enough she becomes a dark horse. I dislike the current belief that anyone can be anything, and to see it so bluntly in this book detracted from the imagination of the spirits and how humans co-existed with them.

 

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
I liked this book. It was a fast read, and I liked the story, but it didn’t particularly grab me. It was lyrical, though the language was at times felt inauthentic for teens (more how adults daydreamed they would have talked when they were teens). I did like how positive and open it was for LGBT teens learning and accepting who they were.

 

 

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
Another fast read that was a basic overview of Minamoto Yoshitsune. It didn’t really go into a lot of details, feeling like it skimmed over a lot of the violence and destruction involved with toppling a regime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I ended up liking the Sarah Dessen books more than I expected to. They all have similarities – parents who are absent (physically or emotionally), young teenage girls who are a little bit on the outside of things, still slightly awkward with themselves, and the journey from that awkwardness into self-confidence. They felt innocent and hopeful and it made me wistful for my high school days, learning about love for the first time. Of the four books, The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride were my favorites. I felt a connection with Macy and Auden in regard to how their families disfunctioned. Keeping the Moon was alright, but I didn’t like how Colie was told she was a shallow person for not being attracted to Norman. It felt like she talked herself into liking him because of other people’s opinions. This Lullaby was my least favorite. I liked that Remy had some edges to her, but Dexter was annoying, and I didn’t care for how the story unfolded.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
Unfortunately, this book was only somewhat interesting, and only somewhat focused on what the title said the book was about. I was expecting, and hoping, for more information about the five people enslaved by four presidents, but instead of taking what we know of their lives and expanding on what we know of slavery in general from that era, he put the focus on the presidents. I would have liked to learn more about the hidden history of slavery, how it affected those who were enslaved, and the culture they created.

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Another book I’d heard about but wasn’t on my reading radar. I’m glad it was on the Hub list because it was wonderful. Both Theodore and Violet were interesting relatively well-fleshed out characters. I liked how they connected, even if the use of Virginia Woolf was a bit pretentious. I do have several complaints with the book. Theodore’s mental illness was  glossed over to the the point I had no clue what it was. A school guidance councilor mentioned that he thought Theodore might be bipolar, but it was speculation on the part of that character. The adults in the book were awful, ranging from ambivalent to neglectful to abusive – and none of them were called out for it. Their behaviors were treated as par for the course. And finally, it felt like suicide was treated in such a way as to make it appear tragically beautiful. Which it is most definitely not.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This is a fairly brutal tragedy of a book. It deals with some nasty topics, but at the same time is darkly funny. The humor is a good counterpoint to what happens, and keeps the story from being overwhelming. I like that the main characters, and even some of the secondary characters are complex while staying away from special snowflake-cliche end of the spectrum. I adore Alex, and even though some of her actions are outside of the law, she is still a relateable character who is aware of her flaws (and the flaws of society).

 

 

DNF – Every Sun a Star by Nicola Yoon
I like the concept of this book, but I couldn’t stand it. The writing style and instalove got on my nerves, but what kept me from making myself overlook those for the sake of an interesting story was how the immigration office was portrayed. I have first-hand experience working for the benefits side of immigration, and it is most definitely NOT like how it is written in the book. We’ll start with the fact that USCIS has absolutely nothing to do with removals/deportations. That’s all ICE. USCIS deals with benefits (green cards, becoming a citizen, etc…). It is not law enforcement. If you went to a USCIS office to talk about removal proceedings, you would be told that we can’t help you, please go talk to ICE. Also, if you’ve scheduled a walk-in appointment, you won’t know the name of the officer ahead of time. You will get whoever happens to be working the information counter on that day. The same goes for interview appointments. On top of that, an immigration officer isn’t going to give someone the name of a potentially skeezy lawyer/fixer who might be able to help a person stay in the US. Maybe it was different “back in the day”, but it was never my experience.

DNF – The Reader by Traci Chee
A book with an interesting concept, but it was just. so. freaking. boring. And highly implausible once I started to get into it – how was there no system of writing or some sort of equivalent? I had to force myself to get to page 50. Then I read the last few pages. And I realized I had no interesting in learning what happened in between.

DNF – Dryland by Sarah Jaffe
My third DNF for May was Dryland. Another book that seemed interesting, and one that would be a good fit because I lived through the flannel-wearing-teen-angst of the 90’s. But it was another boring book. I didn’t connect with Julie, and wasn’t able to push myself past around page 30.

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The Hub – April

Signs of fatigue showed up during month number three of Hub reading. Not so much from this challenge as all reading challenges in general. Because of course, I’m being forced into participating and aren’t allowed to read other books. That being said, I read a good mix of books this month, with Every Heart a Doorway being my favorite (can’t wait to read the sequels as they come out). I did not have any DNF books in April, so that was also a plus.

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I had this book sitting on my shelf for more than a month before I sat down to read it. I knew it would be amazing (and it was), but I also knew it would be painful. It is unfathomable to me how people can be so cruel, and how we really haven’t progressed much. The graphic format makes it so much more powerful than words would alone.

 

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
This was a well-written and intriguing book, but it was not for me. I am not a fan of horror or the grotesque, and have a low threshold for both – the monsters were proper monsters. It was creepy, and at times, gory, but never gratuitously. The narrative was solid – as seen through the traumatized eyes of a young boy, who was the apprentice of the titular monstrumologist. Aspects of the plot brought up interesting philosophical questions regarding humanity and science.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
McLemore is a fantastic storyteller, with aspects of her style reminding me of Neil Gaiman. Moon was lyrical with a dreamy cadence, and a dash magical realism. The focus was more on the characters and their individual struggles as opposed to a cohesive plot, so at times it could be hard to follow exactly what was going on. However, it was a beautiful story about both self-acceptance and loving others unconditionally.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I think I would have liked this book more if I hadn’t skipped to the ending to see what happened. What I thought would be the plot trajectory turned out to be only a subplot. And I know I would have enjoyed the book more if Faith Sunderly’s father hadn’t been such a raving, abusive asshole. His behavior put such a pall on the rest of the book, that it was hard to appreciate the clash between changing scientific views and societal struggles, and the small dip into the magical.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I love fairy tales, and I love Alice in Wonderland, and both are mashed up in Every Heart, looking at what happens when the children who stepped through the portal or went down the rabbit hole return to the normal world. It’s weird and painful because of the crushed dreams and unlikely hopes of such children, and the lengths some of them will go to in order to regain their alternate lives.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third
I will start with the fact that I am not the demographic this graphic novel is geared towards. If I review it based purely on my connection to it, then my response would be negative. If I review it based upon the fact that if the right child/teen read this and found a connection to lowriders and tricking out cars, then it would be a great choice. From that standpoint, it’s accessible with a subculture that isn’t often represented in books.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I made the mistake of not writing my thoughts down when I finished Scythe,  so about all I remember is that I liked it enough that I will read the sequel when it comes out. I enjoy books that take the prevalent system in the story and then have the main character learn about and try to expose the rot and corruption of that system. Of Citra and Rowan, I prefer Rowan. He is more firmly placed in the moral gray zone than Citra, which makes him more interesting.

The Hub – March

Month number two of Hub reading complete! Once again, my reading was split between the graphic format and audiobooks. None of the books have been outside my reading comfort zone, so I need to try to work on that. Both Salt to the Sea and Kill the Boy Band stand out as favorites, and I’m itching to listen to KBB again (I’ll probably force my step-mother to listen to it during her next visit. Just like I’m going to force her to watch Moana). The one drag for this month was Beast. It has been on my TBR list for a while, but it was utterly disappointing to listen to. I had to DNF it.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis was powerful. I couldn’t imagine going from a relatively free, westernized life to a strict Islamic life. Watching Marjane have to reconcile her free spirit with the restrictions and punishments of the new regime was crushing. There were enough details to get the horror of it across, but not so many as to be overly graphic. The last panel was the hardest to read.

 

We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan
This was one of Brian K. Vaughan’s weaker graphic novels, if only because it was so short and felt rushed toward the end. There wasn’t a lot of room for character development. It packed a powerful punch in terms of geopolitics and an imagined US invasion of Canada, but there should have been more. It offered a glimpse of the resistance, with most of it focused on bringing about the end of the conflict. The story would have been awesome if it had been stretched out into several volumes.

Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Ichigo Takano
A bittersweet story about a group of friends who send letters to their past selves in order to change the fate of their newest friend, Kakeru. I liked the sci-fi, romance, and the characters interactions felt believable, but it did not sweep me off my feet. The timeline jumps could be hard to follow, and I didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters. It is possible that I was not in the right mindset to fall in love with the story.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
I loved this book. A black satire for sure, and its humor is definitely not for everyone. KBB poked fun at the obsessive side of fandom (not fandom in general). It was awesome and horrible in an “I can’t believe they just did that” kind of way. The plot was ridiculous, and all four main characters were on the wrong side of sane, to varying degrees. I liked that the narrator wasn’t entirely reliable – how much of what she presented was the truth or was inside her own head? She would never give her actual name to people, only characters from ‘80’s teen movies, which I thought was a fun detail. The audiobook narrator did a fantastic job nailing the vocal nuances of this character.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
This book was absolutely beautiful; horrible, but beautiful. Not for the younger set, given the content and brutality. I always think of the Titanic as being the worst maritime disaster, and that is what I’ve always been taught. I didn’t know about the Wilhelm Gustloff, or about how absolutely horrific its sinking was. The characters were well-developed, and all of them existed on a scale of moral ambiguity, though Emilia was towards the good end of the spectrum, as she lied for the purpose of keeping her sanity.

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan
I’ve read the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles, and while I enjoyed them, none of them stood out as being funny (of course it’s been years since I’ve read them, so it’s possible I don’t remember the funny). Magnus Chase however, was very cheeky. I listened to it while doing housework, and my kids kept asking why I was snorting so much. I liked that Norse mythology was finally getting some page-time with a younger audience. The only negative was the narrator. He was absolutely awful.

Ada Lovelace: The Poet of Science by Diane Stanley
I’m not exactly sure why a picture book geared towards younger children would be included in YALSA’s reading challenge, but nominees for the Amelia Bloomer Project Project don’t have to be YA books, so I assume it was included by default. That being said, it was a good book about Ada Lovelace. It was informative, and the illustrations were engaging. My 7-year old liked it, my almost 11-year did not (she felt it was too babyish).

DNF – Beast by Brie Spangler
Beast was one of the books I was excited to read. Then I started listening to it, and I just couldn’t. The mother was so obtusely positive that she essentially invalidated any negative emotions or feelings Dylan had. When he tried to talk her, she didn’t listen. Instead, she would shut him down and jump to her own conclusions. She wouldn’t allow him to express any negative feelings towards himself or how he was perceived by others because it didn’t fit into her perception of him. Dylan also bothered me. When he described his interactions with girls, he came off as a fedora-wearing Nice Guy. It seemed like he expected girls to be there for him, and when they rejected him, he assumed it was because of how he looked and not how he behaved.