All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood

26114135This is a beautiful book. Bryn Greenwood definitely has a rare skill in creating unforgettable characters. Kellen is a beefy, uneducated, motorcycle-riding mechanic and occasional meth trafficker (think Jesse Pinkman, just larger and kinder). Wavy is the daughter of the meth dealer, a neglected, taciturn, independent waif whose parents don’t care if she exists. They come together to support each other, mostly filling each others’ black hole of loneliness. Kellen, age 25, takes care of her, takes her to school, gives her a place to sleep. Wavy takes care of him: shows him he has worth and value as a person, and deserves the love she gives him.

It’s innocent at first, a younger sister / older brother kind of relationship. Until suddenly it’s not.

But Greenwood handles this development so carefully, with such grace and understanding, that as the reader I wasn’t surprised when their relationship developed past the threshold of propriety. It made sense. The Big Thing I didn’t understand, however, is that Kellen met Wavy when she was eight years old. Things take the inappropriate turn when she’s thirteen. I just can’t quite wrap my brain around that taboo acceptance, even after understanding the circumstances that brought these two together.

Ultimately, many psychological and abusive disorders get passed over in this book, and that was unsettling. Wavy obviously has many emotional problems as a result of her wretched childhood. Did no one ever think she needed a doctor? She has an eating disorder at an early age, not being able to eat in front of anyone, hardly speaks a word, communicating only with shrugs and nods, and is constantly terrified due to her savage upbringing. I just don’t see this going on and on into adulthood without some kind of intervention. Was her love for Kellen pure, or was it just a result of her psychological scarring? If she’d been allowed to get some counseling and see a doctor, would she have developed into a more functional adult and thus moved past her obsession with Kellen?

The story was interesting at first, but began to lag with repetitive incidences of Wavy’s cruel home life causing Kellen to rescue her. I did enjoy the slow build, however incongruous this may seem, but after the first half of the book I was wondering if there would be any more to the story. The pace of the second half was a whirlwind, with many exciting events and time passing much more quickly. I appreciated the ending, though I’m not sure it should have ended the way it did.

Give this a chance. It will grow on you, and the characters will stay with you for a while.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Netgalley, and Bryn Greenwood for the opportunity to read this advance copy.

Other books in this same vein that may interest you:

tiger
Find it here on Goodreads
thegirls
My review of The Girls
the kiss 2
Find it here on Goodreads

2 thoughts on “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood”

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