All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published August 9th, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

My thoughts…

This was a spectacular book. I devoured this story. Beginning to end, I was completely lost in this disturbing, yet beautiful love story. I love stories that are a bit forbidden and or taboo. For days after reading it, my mind was on Wavy, Kellen, and their story. You might be thinking Lolita, but All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is completely different.

Wavonna Quinn’s story is not an easy story to read. She grew up with negligent parents and no one who really cared about her. Her parents are drug addicts, drug dealers, neglectful and abusive. Her mother's issues with eating and germs manifest in Wavy's behavior. She doesn't communicate or connect with anyone until Jesse Joe Kellan enters her life. A motorcycle accident brings Kellen into her life when she is eight years old, it’s a true friendship and a real love, without any sex, lust or anything inappropriate.

Kellen is a big guy with his own history of abuse at the hands of his father and was generally thought of as a waste of space, there is an instant connection between these two outsiders. Kellen works for Wavy’s father, has tattoos and becomes the only friend Wavy has and the only person who truly cares for her and her brother. Besides her little brother, Kellan is one of the only people that Wavy can bring herself to say any words too, talking about stars.

“I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Kellen quickly realizes that Wavy is all on her own with parents who don't seem to give a thought to her care. He quickly becomes everything to Wavy. He buys food, takes her to school and keeps her safe. As she grows up Kellan stays by her side. He stands in when she needs someone and he is the one that protects her.

“Truth was she took care of him as much as he did her. There was a few times when he was younger that I thought to myself, One of these days, he ain’t gonna show up for work, ’cause he’ll be at home with a gun in his mouth. I had an uncle did that. Jesse Joe was a man with a deep streak of lonely, until Wavy came along.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Through the perspectives of Wavy's cousin, brother, teachers and friends, as well as Wavy herself, the story of her childhood emerges. The novel spans 15 years, beginning in March of 1975, growing up in a shitty household to Wavy’s college years. While uncomfortable, and often graphic, it is so emotionally confusing because Kellen’s motivations in his relationship with Wavy are loneliness and compassion, and he is not driven by sexual agenda. The love between these two was beautiful and pure for much of the story, the relationship turned physical between them when Wavy was almost 14 years old and Kellen was 25 or so years old. I rooted for them, and my heart broke for them and I wanted nothing more than for them to have each other.

“When I reached her, she was a star, pulling me into her orbit”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

This author’s writing style captivated me from the start. I'm sure it will provoke many conflicting reactions, but there remains one overwhelming certainty: it's hard to not react passionately to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

“Your family is real, but mine isn't? Real people with real feelings, but my family isn't real to you. You think. I'm a character. A story. Those women you talk about. Not real people to you. Stupid women. I'm real. I'm as real as you are. My family is real like your family.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things


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