on August 9, 2016
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.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was one of those books that I really have no idea how to review. I loved it from the first page. It was riveting, heartbreaking, and beautiful. It also challenged me to see beyond my preconceived notions about what a normal, healthy relationship should look like. Honestly, this book challenged every opinion I have on this sort of relationship and I loved that.
We are introduced to Wavy at a young age, 5 or 6, I think. At first you get glimpses of her through her cousin’s, aunt’s, and grandma’s eyes. She was a non vocal, feral child. Once she is back with her mother you understand why she is the way she is. Her mother is an addict and seems to have some mental health issues on top of that. Wavy has to care for herself and her baby brother from a very young age. They live in horrifying conditions. It was difficult to read about at times.
All of that seems to change when Kellen is introduced in the book. He was like a beacon of light in the story. When he is first introduced Wavy is still just a very young girl and Kellen is in his early 20’s, I believe. He takes Wavy and her brother under his wing. He starts driving her to school, buying their groceries, and cleaning their house. All while Wavy’s mother is locked away in her room and her father is dealing or making drugs. It was easy to accept Kellen in Wavy’s life. He took care of them when no one else did and for many years that’s all it was.
I feel like this book should have made me more uncomfortable than it did. There is a turning point where things go from an innocent relationship to something more. It didn’t happen quickly. It was drawn out and completely believable. Wavy was very much still a young girl when things started changing. This is when I had to step outside of my preconceptions and opinions. Wavy had to grown up so early. She’s had a horrible upbringing with no parental role models. So it made a weird kind of sense that she was in love with Kellen and he was in love with her. Their relationship made me feel so many emotions. I was definitely slightly uncomfortable but not as much as I would’ve thought going into the book.
The writing is superb. Bryn Greenwood delivers a raw and unapologetic look at Wavy’s life. The situations seemed unfathomable to me but the author brings them to life in stark detail. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is the perfect title for this book. It’s full or grit and beauty. The writing is sparse, but conjured so many different emotions. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy being challenged by books like I do, then add All the Ugly and Wonderful Things to your reading list.