Review of Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things


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 when her stargazing 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, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

My Review – 4 stars:

Wow!  This book was quite ugly AND wonderful.  I wanted to rate it a 1 in some parts and a 5 in others.  I had a hard time getting through the graphic parts most likely because I have a 10 year old daughter.  Though I loved Wavy’s character, I will admit the relationship between her and Kellen grossed me out when things started getting more intense.  I probably would not have finished the book if the plot hadn’t thickened right about that time.  I was then eager to finish it.  I’m glad I did because it felt less “icky” in the end.

Greenwood did a great job developing the characters in the first half and the plot became more intense in the second half.  There was a gamut of emotions that ran through me – sadness, anger, hope, happiness, disgust, discomfort, denial.  At one point I was questioning Wavy and Kellen’s kisses.  They couldn’t be romantic kisses, right?  It’s probably more like a father and daughter.  That’s what went through my head.  I think the author was purposefully a little vague here.

Favorite Quotes:

“Summer had so many tricks.  The nights lasted longer than the days, even though the angle of the Earth’s axis meant that was impossible.  The night couldn’t be longer, but summer made it seem that way.  Summer sneaked time for me, taking a minute from February, three minutes from English class in March, ten whole minutes from a boring Thursday in April.  Summer stole time to give me another hour under the stars with Kellen.”

“Feeling dead was better than when my heart hurt.  Sometimes I thought it might burn through my ribs while I was asleep, and smolder in the sheets until the whole house caught fire.”

“I liked learning things.  How numbers worked together to explain the stars.  How molecules made the world.  All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”

“‘I was selfish to wish for you,’ I said.  All I’d ever thought about was how much I wanted him.  Needed him.  I never thought of what it would mean for him.”

“The crying kept getting louder and louder, until it was hard to listen to.  You can look up the word keening in the dictionary, but you don’t know what it means until you hear somebody having her heart ripped out.”

Final Thoughts:

I can understand why someone would not want to read this book, especially if they have a young daughter.  However, it is a beautifully written story and not just because it’s a love story.  I was more intrigued with Wavy’s circumstances and her ability to manage herself since a young age.  This was where it was nice to see Kellen come into the picture as someone to watch over her since her parents were not doing so.  Part of the synopsis describes this perfectly, “what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world.”

About Kaz

I’m a career Mom who loves to help people improve their finances and health, my two passions. I’m also an avid runner and reader. CPA and MBA

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