All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (a NetGalley Review)

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (August 9, 2016)
Description from the publisher:
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.a

Hooooo boy. I hemmed and hawed for a LONG TIME thinking about how to talk about this novel. It is extremely inflammatory material (pedophilia). Perhaps on purpose to garner attention. But the writing, character development and story REALLY drew me in - and, yes, also shocked the hell out of me. Wavy is a character that I won't soon forget. Her terrible and highly dramatic 'what-will-happen-next' life, and how it shaped her, felt so very real. It grabbed me from the beginning and never let go. 

Essentially, it's about an 8 year old girl and a young man that form an amazing bond under unimaginable circumstances. How that bond evolves over time is simultaneously heartwarming and harrowing. Greenwood expertly gives a full 360 degree view of their lives from their viewpoint, as well as the viewpoint of every unique supporting character. It was so very easy to find the empathy for each, as well as a better understanding of Wavy - from her innocent cousins, her teachers, her college roommate (one of my favorite characters) to her very protective aunt. We are given the events through everyone's eyes and are permitted to make our own judgments. 

However unsettling Wavy and Kellen's relationship became, I still found myself rooting for them. A majorly effed up, yet riveting, beauty and the beast narrative. I can completely understand those that give this book a big fat NOPE. I mean, I have a very young daughter of my own. I get it. But, I think it is a worthwhile read either way. If only to reinforce the point that nothing in this world is black and white, and that we cannot begin to understand someone else's life unless we have lived it.

I also found this Goodreads interview with Bryn Greenwood to be very interesting and informative.


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