All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★
As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.
I won a copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things from Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings YEARS ago. Years, people. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t immediately start reading it. To be honest, I was a little scared of it. I had been warned it wasn’t an easy book to stomach, but also told that it was really good. Both of those are correct. This was both a hard and easy book to read. Here’s my thoughts…
All the WONDERFUL things about this book:
- Bryn Greenwood is a master storyteller. Her words put you right in the story with the characters. Her descriptions and characters are raw and almost too real. She was good at making me question my moral boundaries.
- The story was told in multiple points of view. That gave more than one opinion and insight into what was going on. In some ways, that eased some of the sting I might have felt otherwise. It made me empathize and sympathize with the characters.
- The baddest of the bad guys were so well written. I hated all the adults and even some of the kids. I don’t know that I truly liked any of them. Well, except maybe Amy.
- This book is fascinating like an episode of Dateline is fascinating.
All the UGLY things about this book:
- I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things because I was captivated by all the things that shouldn’t have been happening. The fact that it’s loosely based on some of the things that happened in Bryn Greenwood’s own childhood made it even more disturbing.
- I hated where this book went even when it felt true to the characters and their story.
- At the heart of this book is a love story between a child and a man. Wavy meets Kellan when she’s about 8. He’s 24. Kellan starts out as a protector — sort of friend but almost family. As Wavy gets older and becomes a teenager, their relationship takes a turn it shouldn’t. Their relationship becomes more boyfriend and girlfriend. I couldn’t stomach this.
- While Greenwood is trying to push boundaries and make people take another look at consent and age, it’s still disturbing. I kept thinking there was something wrong in Wavy and Kellan’s heads.
- The abuse some of the adults (not Kellan) doled out was horrifying.
All the things I was left thinking about after it was all over:
- I feel like the author was trying to make the reader understand that in some cases a teenager can be mature enough to consent to a relationship with an adult. I’m just going to have to disagree on that for a lot of reasons.
- This is not a romance and shouldn’t be categorized as one. Some readers have shipped Wavy and Kellan together. That feels wrong to me. It’s like shipping Mary Kay and Vili together. (If you don’t know who they are, you can Google their story. They’re infamous.)
- I still can’t decide if I liked the end. It fit the book, but I almost wanted an ending that was even more devastating than the story already was.
- I am glad I read another one of the author’s books before reading this one because I’m not sure if I would push myself to read another one if I read this one first. It gave me feelings like Tabitha’s Suzuma’s Forbidden gave me feelings. I feel relieved, disturbed, and a little gross after finishing it.
I could probably come up with a bunch more to put under each section, but I need to leave some things for people interested in reading this book. I guess what I would tell people who were interested in reading it would be to go in with an open mind, know your boundaries are going to be pushed, but hang in there for the ride. I probably would have rated All the Ugly and Wonderful Things higher based on the writing and storytelling ability, but I just couldn’t get past the ugliness of some of it.