All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is an adult fiction book unlike any other. This is a complex, emotionally driven story, told by multiple point of views. Wavy, 8, is the daughter of a meth dealer with a bipolar, addict mother. Her home life is volatile and Wavy must take care of herself and her younger brother.
Because of her upbringing, Wavy is distant and frankly an odd little girl. She is obsessed with the stars, hardly speaks and refuses to allow anyone to touch her. One night Wavy witnesses one of her father’s men wreck his motorcycle and her life changes forever. Kellen is a big tattooed, ex-con, who everyone thinks is slow but who really is kind, caring and surprisingly insightful.
Kellen and Wavy develop an immediate connection that is deep and unbreakable. Kellen is the caretaker Wavy never had and Wavy makes Kellen want to be a better man. What starts out as a completely platonic relationship evolves over time into something more. This is a love story both shocking and compelling and one that makes you reevaluate what it means to love.
I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things practically straight through on a 15-hour journey to the southern UK and it wrecked me. It was ugly and wonderful and it turned my world upside down. This one is definitely going to be a controversial read.
As much as I wanted to be disgusted and appalled by Wavy and Kellen’s relationship, it was hard to condemn it. It felt wrong and uncomfortable but it also felt inevitable. Wavy and Kellen’s relationship isn’t manipulative; Kellen doesn’t force himself on Wavy, in fact he does everything he can to stop it without walking away from her. Wavy is actually the instigator, the one who wants more and at 13, she all but emotionally blackmails Kellen to get it.
Kellen is not your Lolita Humbert. He isn’t driven by a sexual desire for Wavy, if anything he is driven by loneliness and a big heart. Kellen wants to protect Wavy, to provide for her and overtime it becomes more. Wavy also, doesn’t feel like a child. She is anything but helpless and innocent. It’s hard to explain but Wavy feels like this ageless symbol of an upbringing gone horribly wrong; someone who finds a measure of happiness in the dark and refuses to let it go.
The reader here, isn’t told how to feel about what goes on between Wavy and Kellen. Instead the reader is encouraged to evaluate their own emotions and make their own judgments. This story isn’t about right or wrong, it is about the hundreds of shades of grey between right and wrong and how different our lives can be based upon the choices we make and those that are made for us.
Ultimately, this book is about love in all its many forms and definitions. This is a book that is supposed to make you uncomfortable. Whether you thought it was about child abuse or two souls making the best of unfortunate circumstances–it got you thinking. This was a compelling read that will stick with me for a long time and for that reason it gets 5 stars.
That’s all for now!