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.
“I love you all the way.”
This is an EPIC story that was simply unputdownable, filled with characters that I will never, ever forget. The writing is outstanding! Nothing I can say in a review will do any justice to this gem but I will try.
Certainly not a story for everyone, the book is at its heart a love story and what can happen when two human beings really, truly, deeply love each other and care for each other. Wavy and Kellen meet when she is just a young girl, but she is wise beyond her years, having suffered horrible emotional and physical abuse. Wavy has the misfortune to be the daughter of a meth dealer and a mentally-unstable mother. She learns young how to take care of herself and fly under the radar.
There are lots of adults who drift in and out of her life and it is heartbreaking to see how misguided almost all of them are. From a well-meaning aunt to teachers who should know better, everyone basically fails Wavy and her little brother. Except for Kellen.
“He smelled good. Sweat and motorcycle and wintergreen. No stinking weed smoke. No perfume. No sadness. He smelled like love”
He is the one constant in her grim life, the one person she can always count on, no matter what. He provides her with shelter, clothing, all the basic needs that a parent should, plus love. I never viewed their relationship as odd, mostly because of the insightful points of view of the main characters. But for sure some readers will be uncomfortable with their age difference.
The author’s use of different narrators is brilliant. Especially sympathetic is Wavy’s cousin, who is in awe of Wavy’s wild ways. Wavy lives on and off with her aunt and cousins, but they really never know the depth and depravity of Wavy’s unstable home life.
“Wavy in her black leather boots didn’t fit in the catalog. She tore open the catalog and made surprising things happen. Like Ken in a dress.”
This book is the best book I’ve read all year. I could not put it down. My favorite parts of the book are when the author Bryn Greenwood describes how painful it is for Wavy to speak. Words are almost real, tangible things for Wavy, that can be felt and tasted. Brilliant.
This story spans many years and is filled with some of the most unforgettable characters that I have ever read. I absolutely loved how whip-smart Wavy was, and how she silently observed and took in everything around her. She is obsessed with the constellations and her sweet spot is gazing at the stars at night with her beloved Kellen.
“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.”
Wavy never lost hope and pushed forward though life no matter how dire her circumstances were. My heart also broke for Kellen, a giant of a man who always treated Wavy with love and tenderness. They had a bond that was unbreakable. I can’t think of anything more to say about this stunning book other than to please read it! It will change your life.
“I wanted a fairy tale ending for Wavy, because if she could find happiness, there would be hope for me, too.”
(ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.)