BOOK REVIEW: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood


Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre:  Coming of Age/Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Dunne     
432 pages
Buy:  Kindle Paperback 


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.


I know mine may not be a popular opinion but I really loved this book.  While it did deal with an underage relationship, it was also about drugs, mental illness, dysfunctional families, child abuse, and neglect.  

Wavy and her brother, Donal do not grow up in a normal family.  In fact her mother is so horrible that she makes Wavy believe that she is so dirty that if she opens her mouth she will infect other people.  Her father is a meth dealer, who is a serial cheater. Kellen works for her father but when he shows up at the house one day he sees the state it's in and starts to clean, he also starts taking Wavy to school every day despite the fact that her mother could care less if she goes or not.  

Wavy takes care of Donal and Kellen takes care of Wavy.  In a way Wavy and Donal are feral children, raised around adults that don't seem to care that they are children.  They fend for themselves or they die, and Kellen is the only person in Wavy's life who is kind to her other than her Grandmother.  Even her aunt Brenda seems to have her own agenda and doesn't seem to want to understand or get to know Wavy just wants her to conform to her way of life.  If you can suspend your black and white idea of right and wrong and see the world in shades of grey, see the world in which these people are living you may understand why what happens, happens.  I'm not condoning it, in fact I got unsettled by it but not surprised by it. I believe even one of the main players was uncomfortable about it. Then I remember that in some places in the United States and around the world girls are married at 13 to much older men which I find much more deplorable. 

Regardless Greenwood has created a world where you can smell the meth cooking in the barn, see the drug and sex parties that are being held and feel empathy toward the two kids just trying to navigate their way through.  Luckily Wavy finds 3 people who make a huge impact in their lives, the first teaches her about the stars, the second to find hope, the third to love and show forgiveness.  Donal has his sister and a series of dysfunctional men who claim him and want him to be like them.  If I had to choose I'd say Wavy is the luckier of the two.  

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