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Excerpt from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A Novel

by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood X
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2017, 432 pages

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Print Excerpt


"I'm worried about her. Is that so horrible of me? She never talks. What's going to happen to her?"

"She does too talk," Leslie said. "I hear her talking at night to Amy."

Mom slowly turned to all of us, narrowed in on me. "Is that true? Does she talk to you?"

She stared into my eyes, pleading with me. I nodded.

"Well, what does she talk about?"

"It's a secret."

"There can't be secrets, Amy. If she tells you something important, you have to tell me. You want to help Vonnie, don't you?" Mom got down on her knees in front of me and I saw how it was. She would make me tell my secret. I started to cry, knowing I would tell and it wouldn't help Mom or Wavy. It would just rob me of something precious.

Wavy saved me. With her hand over her mouth, she said, "I don't want to talk about it."

My mother's eyes bulged. "I—I—I." She couldn't get a word out and even Dad looked stunned. The silent ghost girl could speak in complete sentences.

"I want you to go back to the therapist," Mom said.

"No."

Things might have gotten better after that, if it hadn't been for the other secret between Wavy and me. She liked to sneak out of the house at night, and I went with her. Breezing down the stairs on bare feet, we eased open the kitchen door and walked around the neighborhood.

Sometimes we just looked. Other times, we took things. The night of Wavy's sixth birthday, when she had left her cake uneaten, she jimmied open Mrs. NiBlack's screen door. We crept across the kitchen to the refrigerator, where Wavy pressed her finger to the lever to keep the light inside off. On the bottom shelf sat a half-eaten lemon pie, which we carried away. Crouched under the weeping willow in the Goerings' backyard, Wavy tore out a chunk of pie with her bare hand and gave me the plate. She went around the corner of the garden shed and when she came back, her piece of lemon pie was gone. No, she wasn't starving.

Some nights we gathered things. A wine bottle scavenged from the gutter. A woman's high-heeled shoe from the median of the highway, where we weren't supposed to go. An old hand mixer abandoned outside the Methodist Church's back door. We collected our treasures into a metal box stolen from the neighbor's garage, and secreted it along our back fence, behind the lilac bushes.

When autumn came, the lilacs lost their leaves, and Dad found the box of treasure, including Mrs. NiBlack's heavy glass pie plate, her name written on the bottom of it on a square of masking tape. Mom returned it to Mrs. NiBlack, who must have told her how the pie plate went missing: stolen out of her fridge on a hot July night, a trail of small dirty footprints left on the linoleum.

Or maybe something else made Mom suspicious.

As the weather got colder, I wanted to stay at home in bed, but when Wavy got up and dressed, I did, too. If I didn't go, she would go alone. Half of my fear was that something would happen to her. The other half was a fear that she would have adventures without me.

So I went with her, shivering against the cold, while my heart pounded with excitement. At the library, Wavy went up on tiptoe to reach her spindly arm into the book return. In the day, my mother would have driven us to the library to check out books, but stealing books was sweeter.

Wavy smiled and withdrew her arm to reveal treasure. The book was thin enough to pass through the return the wrong way, but it wasn't a kiddy book. Salome, the spine said. We leaned our heads together to consider the strangeness of an adult book with pictures. Odd pictures. The cover was worn and layered with clear tape to protect it, and the pages were heavy. It felt special.

As I reached to turn the page, a pair of headlights fell on us where we crouched beside the book deposit. Wavy darted away, but I froze when my father yelled, "Amy!" Like in a fairy tale, where knowing someone's name gives you power, my father was able to capture me.

Excerpted from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Copyright © 2016 by Bryn Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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