All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a book that will stay with me for years to come. I have never read anything like it, and don’t expect to ever find something like it again. Be aware this book will make you lose sleep and wreak havoc with your emotions.
Wavy, born in the backseat of a stranger’s car to a meth dealer and a mentally ill mother, is not what anyone would call normal. At eight, she rarely speaks—“Don’t you ever talk to people! You don’t talk to anyone!”—or eats—“Don’t eat that! That’s dirty!” She spends her days struggling to raise her little brother, surviving her mother’s moods and avoiding her father. The one thing that brings her peace is the starry night sky above the fields behind her house. Then everything changes when Kellen, a giant tattooed ex-con and thug for her father, crashes into her life. For both, it’s love at first sight. What follows is a tale that spans around fifteen years told from the perspectives of Wavy, Kellen, Wavy’s brother, her cousin, her aunt, her teachers, friends and her father’s thugs. It is a tale of love, woe, sadness, happiness, violence and compassion: a tale of all the ugly and wonderful things humans do to each other.
This book will make you uncomfortable. It certainly made me uncomfortable. It will make you question the world and yourself. The strength of it lies in the author’s refusal to force a view or opinion on the reader. Greenwood simply tells the story in beautiful language and brings the characters to life so vividly they live in your memory long after you close the book. It is up to the reader to pass judgement, to feel and react.