All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Wonderful ThingsWayvonna Quinn was born in the back of a stranger’s car while her parents hitchhiked across Texas. Eight years later, her circumstances have improved. Barely.

Now living in a dilapidated farmhouse, Wavy’s trying to parent her infant brother. Her father runs a meth lab on the property and her mother barely functions. To say her life is difficult is an understatement. She is poor, abused, and afraid.

Then she meets Kellen. Kellen changes her life, they take care of each other—and care for each other, in a world that doesn’t want them. Aside from Wavy’s brother, Kellen is the only wonderful thing in her life. But when tragedy upends and exposes Wavy’s family, her life looks ugly to the outside.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (I received my review copy from the publisher) is an unexpectedly touching novel. Filled with tragedy and told effortlessly from multiple narrators, Bryn Greenwood’s novel is one that will stick with me for a long time. It’s a story that challenges the way you view the world. How and when is love appropriate? Are certain lines, if crossed, a forgivable offense? Can a 14 year old, who is an adult in nearly every way possible, be capable of adult feelings?

As Wavy falls in love with Kellen, a man who is much too old for her, the novel needs to be read with empathy and understanding. Greenwood does not romanticize the relationship; she is not sentimental about Wavy and Kellen. Instead she presents their brutal, hard-won existence with an honest, straightforward appeal that is, well, very appealing. I sincerely hope readers give this one a chance. It’s not an easy book to read, but it is worth it.

PS: Lolita it is not. Thankfully.

9 thoughts on “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

  1. I’m honestly still not sure I can take this one, even if the author handles it super sensitively. Age differences in romance — particularly if there’s an imbalance of power — are one of my huge squicks. Might just not be for me.


    1. I think there are about 10 years between them, but it’s at such an important time frame that it seems like a lot. If there’s an imbalance of power, it’s in the girl’s favor. Still, given the topic, I might skip it if I were you, as the inappropriate relationship is definitely the most prevalent theme.


  2. This one sounds really, really interesting (although at first I thought this was a review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North because the cover was so familiar!). I made it through Lolita and Tampa so I might give it a go.


  3. I loved this book so much and yet it did not get much attention at all. I understand because the subject matter is controversial, but Greenwood handles it so beautifully. For me, it came down to power. This was not a relationship of power or control. It was caring and so age was not relevant.


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