Updated: Mar 29, 2020
I had seen All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood floating around bookstagram and purchased a copy from Book Outlet (www.bookoutlet.com). (Side note: If you haven't checked out Book Outlet, you are missing out. It is like an online thrift store for books. I found this title for 69% off its title price. At only $4.89, this was a steal. If I could be a spokesperson for Book Outlet, I'd jump at the chance. I'm hooked!) This book has garnered some mixed reviews because of the age difference of the two main characters. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, but I think that sometimes we need that when we read a book. Life isn't all rainbows and butterflies for everybody and we should not live our lives being naïve to the horrible and ugly things in this world. A book like this might not sit well with everyone, but I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone once in awhile. It is a good reminder for me to not be narrow minded and judgmental of what I do not understand.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is the story of a young girl, Wavy, who lives on a compound with her drug addict parents and younger brother, Donal. Her mother was recently released from jail and her father manufactures meth in a barn on the property. To say Wavy is a victim of circumstance is an understatement. At the young age of eight, Wavy is the most responsible person in her household and her life is surrounded by abuse, neglect, drugs, and violence. Wavy meets one of her father's associates, Kellen, and they form an unlikely friendship. Kellen and Wavy can not be more opposite, but they both give each other the love and companionship they both are lacking and so badly need. Each is damaged in their own way, but helps the other heal. Kellen helps Wavy and Donal navigate their lives with addict parents, by providing for them both physically and emotionally. He develops a deep love for Wavy that grows over time.
The relationship between Wavy and Kellen has made this book highly controversial. I don't condone an adult having a relationship with a minor, but I also don't condone a child living in squalor and being neglected and abused by her parents. Wavy had a tragic and traumatic upbringing that aged her beyond her years. She learned at a very young age that people are not to be trusted and nothing in the world is ever truly yours. At the age of five, she cared for her infant brother while her mother ran off on drug binges. Not many people can say they grew up feeling that weight of responsibility at that young of an age. Because of this, I think it is good to keep an open mind while reading this book and reserve your judgments for the end. The title is perfect and it fits the story so well. What looks beautiful to Wavy (her relationship with Kellen,) looks ugly to others (her aunt who interjects herself in Wavy's life.)
I personally believe that love cannot be defined in one perfect definition. It takes many shapes and forms and looks different to everyone. What looks strange and ugly to one person, might look beautiful and breathtaking to another. Who are we to judge what others do and feel? This book had parts that made me feel uncomfortable and I am still grappling with my feelings about it, but overall, I thought the writing was beautiful and I gave All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood ★★★★.5 stars. My heart ached for Wavy and I became emotionally invested in her story. Some parts were very difficult to read, especially because I am a mother to young children and it was hard not to think of them. The universe was working against Wavy every turn she took and she came out on the other side in spite of it, but also because of Kellen. As controversial as their relationship is, she would not have made it without him.
I loved the ending and I felt like it wrapped up the story perfectly and gave me closure, as the reader. Bryn Greenwood is an amazing writer and this story was so tragically beautiful. I am not sure how else to describe it other than by telling you to pick up a copy, reserve your judgments until the end, and form your own opinion.