Book Review : All the Ugly and Wonderful Things By Bryn Greenwood
As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
Wavy’s aunt always started her story of Wavy by saying : “Well, she was born in the backseat of a stranger’s car,” as though that explained why Wavy wasn’t normal.
Technically speaking, it could happen to anyone. Maybe on the way to the hospital, your parents’ respectable, middle-class car broke down. Or your mom’s water broke sooner than expected. But that was not what happened to Wavy. She was born in the backseat of a stranger’s car, because her parents’ were homeless, driving through Texas when their old beat-up van broke down. Wavy’s mom, who was nine months pregnant hitchhiked to the next town for help.
After Wavy was born, her aunt didn’t hear from neither of Wavy’s parents for almost 5 years. The first news she had was that Wavy’s father, Liam, had been arrested for dealing drugs, and that Wavy’s mother, Val, needed money. And then not long after, Val got arrested, leaving no one to take care of Wavy.
In the first month, Wavy’s aunt, Brenda, took Wavy to the doctor three times, because she wasn’t eating. The first time, a nurse tried to put a thermometer in Wavy’s mouth. It didn’t end well. The other two times, Wavy mounted the scale and the doctor pronounced, “She’s underweight, but not dangerously so. She must be eating something.”
“I never knew which was dirtier, my mouth or what I put in my mouth.”
This kept on going for a few months, before Brenda called it quits. She could no longer handle Wavy’s erratic behavior. Her sneaking out at night, refusal to eat, and basically defying everything that she was told to do.
So then, Wavy was sent to live with Grandma. And despite everyone’s worries, Wavy and Grandma seemed to be getting along fine. Even more so than when she was living with her aunt Brenda. While things were good and Wavy’s aversion to eat at the dinner table seemed to be slowly getting better when she was living with Grandma, good things just didn’t seem to last long when it came to Wavy. Grandma passed away.
“She crossed the kitchen and reached out to me.
For a second, she laid her hand on my chest, touched those fake foam boobs I wore in my bra.
I loved her then, right as I was getting ready to leave her.”
And it was just so, that at that time, Val was released from prison and swooped in to get her custody of Wavy back. Val was going through a program called : The Transitional Program. And for the first two weeks at The Program, it was different. She was Good Mama and followed the rules. She washed their clothes and put them away in drawers in the new apartment. She cooked dinner. She didn’t hide in her bedroom and smoke her pipe like she did before she got arrested.
Then one day she woke up Scary Mama instead of Good Mama, and Wavy knew things weren’t going to be different.
3 Words To Sum Up This Book :
Poignant, Addictive, Tear-jerker
Let me preface this by saying : I read books. I read a lot, and I enjoy reading. However, just because I enjoy reading, doesn’t mean all of the books that I read are enjoyable. In fact, most of the books I read typically takes a while for me to get into. They usually starts off slow, and eventually pick up speed and get more interesting as you read on.
And despite me always raging about how much I love reading, I must admit, sometimes it really isn’t easy to have to force yourself to go through the boring part just so you can get down and dirty when it reaches the fun and interesting part of the book. But I do it anyways. Because honestly, a lot of the books out there are like that. And that’s okay, because I’m used to having to take a while to get into the books I read.
So imagine my surprise when I found this book at random while perusing through Goodreads, and decided to pick this one up and start reading right then and there; only to realize that when I lifted my head up from my Kindle, the sun has set and I have already lost hours immersed into this novel and its beautifully crafted story.
CONTROVERSIES AND BACKLASHES
If you don’t already know from the short synopsis of this book, “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” was a book that tells the story of how a very young Wavy, met and got to know a man who works for her father who was a drug-dealer. It first followed their friendship that slowly grew between the two, before eventually something deeper and more intense was born out of their relationship.
I have read enough taboo romance novels to be able to confidently say that this book is pretty up there as far as controversial goes. I’m not going to spill any beans here since I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will just say that the author received a lot of publicity –– and a lot of backlash –– from this book.
“And then she reached down and unbuckled my belt. I was thinking we should go somewhere more private, but she started unzipping me right there.
Didn’t want to kiss me or talk to me and now she had her hand on my dick? ”
For me personally, I honestly don’t care. The more controversial your story is, the more twisted, and horrifying it is, the more I am interested to give it a try. As long as the writing and plot is good, you know your girl is always down to give it a go.
What really impressed me, was the fact that the author, Bryn Greenwood, was able to write up something so delicate and controversial, yet still able to scrape off all the “creepiness” of the situation and showcase all that was good and pure from the relationship. This was not an easy feat. Because truth to be told, your girl’s trash for taboo/forbidden romance novels. Which means, I read quite enough of those novels. Student/teacher romance, incest, star-crossed lovers, you name it, I’d probably have read a few books in that category.
And yet, I have DNF-ed most of it. Not because I was disturbed by it, no. But it was because those books were so badly written, the build up so badly done that I just couldn’t force myself to go through with it. But with “All The Ugly and Wonderful Things”, despite the theme that this novel followed, the author still managed to showcase a sense of innocence and simplicity to her characters. Which I have come to really appreciate and love.
As for the characters, there is really nothing to be said about it. Wavy and Kellen –– just like all of us –– have their imperfection and flaws. But despite all of that, I don’t think I could adore and love any characters as much as I did them.
“I brought you a present,” I said.
“Not Christmas yet.”
“No, not Christmas. It’s a—a birthday present.”
“I know your birthday’s in July. I just—I don’t—I’m a little drunk.
It’s actually my birthday. I brought you a present for my birthday.”
Both Wavy and Kellen were so amazingly written that at one point, they started to feel real. Like they didn’t even feel like they were just characters in a book. The way they are with each other, how they treat one another, and just their love for the other was so strong and palpable that one can’t help but want to root and cheer for them.
Out of all the books that I have read, I think if I had to choose an example for the saying : right person, wrong time. This would be the book that I pick.
“Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me.”
That was what I wanted for as long as she was looking at me, but when she looked past me, what I wanted more than anything was for her to look at me again. Most people look at you like nothing, but the way she looked at me … it was like I was important. People don’t usually look at me like that.
The Verdict :
If after reading this review, you still feel like you’re on the fence of whether or not you should read this book; don’t worry. I feel you.
If you don’t think you’re going to be comfortable reading a relationship that blooms between an 8 year old and an adult, despite how beautifully written it may be, then maybe this book isn’t the one for you. And that is okay. There are a lot of other amazing books out there waiting to be read and explore, there’s no need to be hung up on this one.
But, for those of you who are thinking of giving this novel a go, do it. If you believe you are open-minded enough –– and trust me, you need to be because there’s some questionable stuff that goes on in this book –– do it.
This novel is the first book that stole my 5 star rating right from under my butt. And if you know anything about me or if you follow my reviews on Goodreads, you know that I’m a hoarder of my 5 stars ratings. I don’t give them out very easily, if at all. So for a book to be able to take that 5 star rating from me so effortlessly and also managed to grab my attention from start to finish, that should at least mean something, no?
“He squeezed me tight, almost as tight as I needed. Tight enough to let me know he wasn’t too afraid of Liam. Tight enough to tell me I was important to him. A little tighter and I would know I was more important than anything else. That was what I wanted.”