Book Reviews

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

 

I’ve had this book for several months, but I kept putting off reading it. If you read the reviews, the biggest thing that stands out is that this is a story about a young girl and hall-the-ugly-and-wonderful-thingser relationship twenty-something year old man. Just reading that made me never want to pick up this book. I’m glad that I finally did, because this is one of those books that changes you and leaves an impression on you that you will never forget. I’m not going to summarize the plot because you can easily pull up Amazon and read it for yourself. A brief summary doesn’t do the story, or more importantly, the characters justice.

The most important thing to understand is that this isn’t a book condoning the relationship between a child and a man. This book is a reminder that things are never as black and white as we want them to be. Wavy and Kellen’s relationship can’t be defined because there is so much grey in the situation that can’t be put into words. Kellen was all that Wavy had. He was the only person she knew she could depend on. What they both had gone through so far in their lives is something I can’t comprehend. It is easy for me to look down my nose and condemn them, but I don’t know what it is like to be Wavy and to live her life.

“Before I could, she clamped her hands over her mouth and said, ‘Mama was right. I am dirty.'”

Yes, at times times it is hard to read, especially when the relationship turns sexual. The language that they use to describe each other’s body isn’t meant to be vulgar, it is a reminder that those are the only words that they know. They come from a world where you didn’t learn Sex Ed in school. Wavy learned about sex from watching her dad with her mom or one of his girlfriends or from seeing pictures in a dirty magazine. Wavy didn’t know what it is like to have a healthy relationship. Her mom spent any time that she was sober telling Wavy that she was dirty and that no one could ever touch her because she was dirty. Wavy grew up not talking or being able to eat in front of people because of the damage that was done to her.

The story is told from multiple POVs, including Wavy and Kellan. Hearing other people describe their relationship and tell their story really gives you the full picture. Two of my favorite POVs were from Renee, Wavy’s college roommate, and Amy, Wavy’s cousin. They provide intimate insight to the story because they offer opinions based on their own life experiences and secrets they are keeping.

“Seeing them together as the sun went down and the stars came out, my heart did a little leap of joy. I waned a fairy tale ending for Wavy, because if she could find happiness, there would be hope for me, too.”

This story is raw and will reach inside of you and gut you. I had tears running down my face for most of the book, but I couldn’t stop reading. I needed to know that Wavy would get her happy ending. Thankfully the ending is fulfilling. You know that Wavy is going to be okay.

I would recommend this book to anyone, but be warned that it is full of triggers. Mental illness, rape, assault, drug use, murder, and the list goes on. It’s not an easy read. The forbidden love aspect reminds me a lot of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, which was the first book to really teach me that love can’t be defined by black and white terms. Before you completely dismiss the book based on the theme alone, try to give it a chance. It may end up leaving an imprint on you that you didn’t know was possible. I can honestly say this is one of the best books I have ever read.

5 stars

-Leah

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