Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Title: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Genre: Controversial/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Release Date: August 9/2016
Acquired: Purchased ebook
Goodreads: ADD

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 have a mantra on repeat in my head as I write this, it goes something like "It's okay to have liked this book, oh DEAR GOD it's okay that I enjoyed it". I've read some seriously controversial books in my reading lifetime, but All the Ugly and Wonderful Things pretty much takes the top layer of the cake. It is a love story, yes. And I would be lying if I said my heart didn't beat a little bit faster whilst rooting for this unsettling pairing.

The book begins with Wavy, in all of her quietly damaged glory, told through the perspective of her cousin Amy. So many assumptions are easily made in these first few chapters, so many questions already tucked away in my brain awaiting answers. Why doesn't she speak? What unspeakable hurt is she experiencing? Who can we blame first? The answers came in the way that they tend to do in these cases: unfortunately, and with a heavy heart. Wavy is living a life that many wouldn't wish on their most hated. And though her silence is powerful, so are the things left unsaid, and soon there's only one person who is allowed to hear them.

Enter Kellen. Intimidating, bulky, greasy, TWENTY-SOMETHING-year-old Kellen. He literally crashes into Wavy's life one morning whilst riding his motorcycle. He takes one look at 8-year-old Wavy and drives his motorcycle straight into the ground. As the reader, it was here that the cringy, uncomfortable feelings start. It was here that the author exceeds in her intention to create an attraction, regardless of how small and/or innocent. It was here that Kellen becomes a driving force in Wavy's life, and she in his. He begins to make sure that she gets to school on time, that her little brother Donal is taken care of, and that she is never alone. You want to feel wretched about this situation, you want to HATE that he begins to love her, because it's SO WRONG. But you literally cannot-there wasn't a bone in my body that wanted to shut the book when Kellen grew closer to Wavy as the years progressed, as time somehow shut the gap between their ages to a more appropriate number. So pure were his intentions, so broken were both of their lives.

It all made sense. It all made intensely disturbing, wonderful SENSE. Even from the beginning. What an extremely gifted writer Greenwood is. Her ability to create shock but not for the value of it, to open a space in my heart for something so otherwise appalling. I congratulate her on her bravery, and her unapologetic view of might not be our own reality, but could very well be another's. I am STILL feeling the remnants of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. What a FANTASTIC way to start off my 2017 reading year!

Recommended for Fans of: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall, Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald, Jodi Picoult, Contemporary, Controversial Issues.



CLICK HERE to read more about Bryn on her website's bio page!



  1. This sound so well written. When your pulled in by the heart strings, you know it's gotta be good! So grateful to have stumbled on your review. Definitely going to give this book a read. Thank you so so much for sharing your thoughts... and for keeping the art of reading alive, one page at a time ❤️

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Stacey! I really hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did :).


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