All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a story that you can't help to tell others about. Greenwood pushes the novel's storyline in directions most authors wouldn't dare to go. It's an unconventional love story you are left thinking about weeks after completing the read.
Set in the mid 1970s to early 1980s, the story line of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is centered around a young girl that goes by the name of Wavy. She is smart, even though most wouldn't think so, due to her odd behavior brought on by her poor upbringing and unreliable, disturbed parents. Her father, Liam, runs a meth lab and is abusive towards Wavy and her mother. Wavy's mother, Val, suffers from mental health issues and poor hygiene during her depression spells. She projects many of her mental health issues on Wavy, such as washing her in bleach, telling her she is dirty, insisting that men are evil and can't be trusted, and much more.
Wavy is very small for her age and refuses to eat in front of others. She barely speaks and refuses to let people touch her, in fear that she will become dirty or make others dirty. Wavy's parents pay little to no attention of her well-being and needs as a young child. By the age of eight, Wavy acts as the primary caregiver of her younger brother, Donal. She ensures he is feed, cleaned and most of all, tries to protect him as best she can from her parent's abuse and neglect. You can only imagine the things little Wavy would have gone through with parents like Liam and Val, living in such an unpleasant household.
When Kellen enters Wavy's life, I felt a sense of relief that Wavy was no longer on her own. Finally, there was an adult around that could watcher out for her, give her rides to school, make sure she has groceries, and even protect her from her own parents.
Writing Style & Narration
The narration of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things starts with Wavy at the young age of five-years-old. The story is mostly written in a linear timeline, with only a limited amount of flashbacks by characters other than the protagonist, allowing the reader to grow-up along with Wavy.
There are a lot of characters in this book, and Greenwood brilliantly weaved them together by allowing each character to come alive by owning their own chapters in first person. There are many of WTF moments in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, and the reader is able to hear the surrounding characters thoughts on those moments.
You won't find a shortage of foul language in this story. Greenwood develops a roughness in the characters that people in drug-addict circles are likely to have. If you've ever wondered what's it like to live near a meth lab around drug-addicts and dealers, well, I can only imagine that Greenwood has successfully captured the essence of it.
"No woman had ever looked at me the way she did, or touched me that way. Like she wanted me, like I was worth wanting."All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood
While listening to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I will admit I had a lot of contradicting thoughts and feelings. As Kellen cared for Wavy over the years, he became the one person she knew she could trust and count on. He was the one person that she felt truly loved her. There is no denying that the little girl, who wouldn't speak or allow anyone to touch her, developed a loving bond with Kellen. However, by the time she reached adolescence things started to get a little weird, or should I say, out of control. The storyline quickly became tragic.
Wavy pushed for the relationship to evolve into a more romantic and intimate one, but Kellen rejected her attempts since she was only thirteen years of age and could get into legal trouble, but not necessarily because the love he felt for her wasn't reciprocal. Eventually, he gave in and became a piece of a perfect storm that was more horrible than I could have ever predicted.
It is a strange feeling wishing a thirteen-year-old could run away with her much older ex-con lover to live happily every after. But in this situation, it's exactly what I hoped for. Wavy is no ordinary thirteen-year-old. Mentally, she is much older due to her hardships. Wavy would never achieve the picture perfect happy ending that society would approve of. So I wanted her to have exactly what she needed, which was Kellen.
Rating & Recommendation
I enjoyed consuming All the Ugly and Wonderful Things as an audiobook from the Audible library. The book was narrated by Jorjeana Marie. She did an amazing job working through the storyline, displaying a unique essence for each character. I am already searching for more audiobooks narrated by Marie.
I highly recommend this audiobook and rate it 5 out of 5 stars!
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