Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
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A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.
As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.
By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.
I still don’t know exactly how I feel about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, and that’s okay with me. Brynn Greenwood has given birth to an exceptional story that is complex, provocative, and stirring. At the same time, it is uncomfortable and emotionally conflicting. I will say this: You can’t form an opinion about this book strictly based on the blurb.
Wavy is an unwanted eight-year-old at the start of the book, and she’s already very perceptive. The fortitude and self-preservation she exhibits in the face of years of unending degradation and an unimaginable home life is completely awe-inspiring. Her deliverance comes in the form of an unlikely person: Kellan—a burly, rather unattractive ex-con biker. Like Wavy, he has a dark past and is disrespected and diminished in so many ways. My heart softened for this kind, lonely, honest man with low self-esteem.
From the moment they meet, things start to look up for them both. Their bond steadily strengthens even as their paths veer in unexpected ways. It’s a complicated relationship between Wavy and Kellen, as well with other characters. It challenges the reader to toss aside the notion of black and white; right or wrong. A love story between a man and a girl? No way, right? I found some of the actions objectionable, even though there are extenuating circumstances. Other times, I was accepting. I battled back and forth with myself!
You may get to a point where you feel like the story is pushing you outside of your comfort zone. My advice is to keep reading. It is extraordinarily thought-provoking, which I think is one of the highest compliments you can give a book. Bryn Greenwood’s storytelling is superb, and she forces you to open your mind and examine your beliefs and expectations in a multitude of areas. Prepare for the story to be disturbing, beautiful, encouraging, and controversial. In the end, regardless of your opinions, I guarantee All the Ugly and Wonderful Things will make you feel deeply and it will linger with you.