Reader reviews and comments on All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, plus links to write your own review.

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A Novel

by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 3, 2017, 432 pages

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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder

a brilliant debut
All The Ugly And Wonderful Things is the first novel by American author, Bryn Greenwood. Eight-year-old Wavonna Lee Quinn has seen more than her share of ugly things in her short life. Her father is a drug dealer with a meth lab just down the hill from the farmhouse where she lives with her mother. Valerie Quinn is drug-addled and self-absorbed, and Wavy spends her days trying to live something like a normal life while protecting her baby brother, Donal from Val’s psychotic fluctuations.

In her life there are few wonderful things; one of those is lying in the nearby meadow looking up at the stars and naming the constellations. Which is what Wavy is doing when Jesse Joe Kellen, a mechanic on an errand for her father, comes riding along on his 1956 Panhead. Seeing ths blond angel at the side of the road causes Kellen to skid, wreck the bike and injure himself in the process. Wavy overcomes her usual reserve to help him.

From this accidental meeting, an unlikely friendship develops between these two. With her family’s lifestyle, Wavy is exposed to violence, drugs and indiscriminate sex, so she has learned to keep a low profile, to eschew attachment to possessions, to trust no one. But Kellen, despite his appearance, despite his criminal history, despite his age (he’s thirteen years older than her), earns her trust. In fact, he’s the only person in her life who cares enough to see her nourished, schooled and protected from harm. But when Wavy reaches her teens, and the relationship changes tenor, it attracts unwelcome attention with tragic consequences.

Greenwood uses multiple narrators to present her story, and these give many points of view, but from Kellen and Wavy’s perspectives, the relationship can be seen as genuine and pure. Greenwood portrays her characters skilfully, and she conveys the sense of time and place and the prevalent social attitudes with consummate ease. Her descriptive prose is often exquisite. This is a tale that is likely to polarise readers, emotional and thought-provoking. A brilliant debut.
Carol N. (San Jose, CA)

Roller Coaster Ride
May I start my saying. . . this was one hard read! Bryn Greenwood's new book has a very controversial nature to its storyline. The subject matter, difficult to comprehend, but one that I understand does exist in this muddied world we live in. Written to disturb and challenge the reader, this novel forces one to look compassionately into the lives of each of its flawed, but memorable characters, Wavy, her little brother, Donal, and Kellen.

Greenwood uniquely uses multiple narrators to tell her story, some in the first person, others in the third person. That usually does not work for this reader, however, it is this writer's gift when it fits so well that the story flows and the reader doesn't really realize how the story is joined.

At eight years old, Wavy, the daughter of a meth dealer and a wacky drug addicted mother, is struggling to raise her little brother and be the "responsible" adult in his life. Then she meets Kellen, an ex-con motorcycle mechanic with a heart of gold, who tries to keep her safe and in school. And as the years pass, their unlikely relationship, surrounded by drug dealers, illicit sex and family turmoil, grows until another family member steps in to charge Kellen with statutory rape. The one constant, stable person in her life is taken and Wavy must decide to fight for herself, her family and her relationship.

This is both an intelligent and honestly written book, I will think about Wavy and her ugly but wonderful world long after having finished Greenwood's emotional roller coaster ride.
Ann B. (Kernville, CA)

The wonderful amid the ugly
The child of a meth dealer and a strung-out mother, Wavy is an ethereal creature. Parenting is completely absent, until it isn't; then it nurtures nothing but damage. The only tender, nurturing aspect of her gritty, gritty existence comes from Kellen, a tattoo-smattered gorilla of a biker dude who is 14 years Wavy's senior. He falls in love with her at first sight, and the older-than-her-years Wavy is smitten with Kellen as well. Despite the uncomfortably pedaphilic implications, their story works. Greenwood does a masterful job of creating sympathetic characters -- of showing us the wonderful amidst the ugly. I found myself asking, Am I rooting for the love story of a tattooed bruiser of a biker and the way underage child of a meth dealer? Yes. Yes, I am.
Sheila B. (Danvers, MA)

Stark Reality
I couldn't put this book down, and when I had to, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's a love story that has changed my perception, once again, of what constitutes love. I know there are realities like this out in the world as painful as that is to comprehend. Bryn is on point in her description of the confusion and survival instincts of being a child in a chaotic, dysfunctional family, one has to wonder how much of it she personally survived. I look forward to her next book and am glad I was chosen to read and comment on this one.
Kim

Perfect Title!
I could not put this book down. Even though the writing is exceptional, this book is not for everyone as the subject matter is difficult. The author must have experienced some of what happens in this book- it is just too tough to make up.
Sandy F. (Davis, CA)

Give this time to stir your soul
A book that has layers and where the "wonderful things" seem like they will never happen. It begins slowly and becomes Riveting, heart rending, educational in a way I hope I never need -- well written. Bryn Greenwood had to have lived this. It is too real. A story of lives, child and adult, torn apart by addiction, lack of love, abuse, anger, and full of everything downright ugly. Where salvation for one child comes from someone negatively labeled for heritage and looks,that is the only one that acts with love and honor. Where love lasts through the "impossible" for years and is finally right and "a wonderful thing." Much more to tell and I don't have the skill to convince you this book is hard to put down and even harder to forget. Brilliant!
Janet S. (Terrace Park, OH)

Powerful Read
This is a tough read and not for everyone. Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, has to grow up all to quickly and trusts no one...even her parents. At eight years old she pretty much raises her mother's new baby, when she is still a child herself.

Fortunately, along comes a friend, Kellen, who helps her and understands exactly what she has/is going through. They become friends and help each other get through all that is happening in their world.

This is a real life story in the world of drugs, criminals, etc. It's a powerful read.
Elizabeth K. (Dallas, TX)

An unconventional love story
I couldn't put this one down. The characters are unusual, but they feel like real people, and the story is compelling. Wavy and Kellen are truly star-crossed lovers. You can't help but root for Wavy and Kellen and Donal to be together as a family. I plan to read any future books by Bryn Greenwood.

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