All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood Review

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things 
by Bryn Greenwood


Stars: 5+++

Reviewed by:

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.


I don’t even know where to start with this review. My mind is still spinning. It was just incredibly sad & shocking! It was a crazy dysfunctional love story. It definitely pushes the boundaries of what’s right and what’s wrong.
At times… I definitely felt uncomfortable reading certain parts of this book. But at the same time… Given the situation in Wavy’s life. It almost seemed normal. I found myself immersed in her surroundings and looking past all the inappropriateness of it all.
(Don’t get me wrong!… I would be upset too with all the things that Kellen and Wavy did and how they acted with each other. But for the sake of his book… I understood.)

This story has so many characters and they all intertwine with each other. It’s hard to write this review without giving anything away. It’s told with so many different people’s POV. That I felt made the story. I know that turns some people off… But in this story it worked.
This book was just so full and all the twist and turns just kept me reading. I did not want to put the book down.
There was never a dull moment in this book.

My heart went out to Wavy right from the very first page. I definitely had tears in my eyes. My jaw dropped so many times reading what she went through and what she had to go through with her parents… But especially her mother.
Her mother was unbelievable. Her mother was an addict and had a mental illness. She should have never had kids let alone taken care of any.
She took all her craziness and just dumped it all on Wavy. Giving her years and years of issues of her own.

Wavy never talked, ate, or socialized with people her own age. She was constantly doing these weird off the wall things that just made everyone around her very uncomfortable.
She had to grow up fast at a very young age. So she had a very old soul personality feel to her. Her eyes had a very heavy blank look to them. Like she’s been through a lot and seen way to much.
You don’t expect to see that in a little girl Wavy’s age.
When Kellen came crashing into her life. Wavy finally let someone in. It was kind of a weird friendship in the beginning. Kellen helped Wavy out a lot around the house and with her little brother Donal.
Things slowly progressed from there. Kellen seemed to get her right away. And slowly we start to see something grow between them. First a deep friendship then into a deep love for each other.

Kellen was made out to be the bad guy in so many people’s eyes. But I definitely didn’t see him as the bad guy. My heart broke for him.
Nobody got him but Wavy. He was an over weight man with a criminal record that worked for Wavy’s dad. He was slow and didn’t have a lot going for him.
But he had a soft spot that only a few people saw.
He went above and beyond for Wavy and her brother. He knew they weren’t being taken care of. And he took it upon himself to help her.
He too had a really hard life. His family was bad. And he didn’t want Wavy in a way to go through what he had went through.

In the beginning… Yes… It was weird. A man and a little girl hanging around each other. As Wavy got older things started to change with them. Little things here and there. But slowly things started to progress.
Nobody looked and treated Kellen the way Wavy did. And Kellen accepted Wavy and all her corks. When everyone wanted to change Wavy… Kellen just accepted her.

Wavy’s dad was no good. He pretty much wrote Wavy off pretty early on. He really didn’t care what she did. So he never cared how much time Kellen spent with her. Just as long as he didn’t have to do it. She could do whatever she wanted.
Her mom… At first didn’t like it. But she was dealing with her own demons. So she just let it be. Never said anything.

It wasn’t Wavy’s parents who protested about Wavy and Kellen’s relationship. It was actually Wavy’s aunt. Oh man… I really could not stand the aunt. She could not accept her sisters life style (Wavy’s mom) and she could not stand how Wavy was.
The role she played in Wavy’s life as the years go on by was hard to read. She just could wrap her head around why her niece would be so into a guy like Kellen. And she made it her personal mission to keep them apart.
It was so hard to read.

I felt as I read on that Kellen was there in the beginning when Wavy needed it and towards the end of the book Wavy fought for Kellen and showed him just how much she loved him.

I wish we could have gotten an epilogue. I would have loved to read what had happened to the whole crew Sandy, Dee, Ricki, Butch after the incident. How had the years after treated them.

This book may not be for everybody…. But if you give it a chance and look past the age difference and just read the whole story. You will be rewarded with an incredible unintentional love story that will leave you wanting more.

Wavy and Kellen’s story will stay with me for a long time.

*ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley*


BRYN GREENWOOD is a fourth-generation Kansan, and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She earned a MA in Creative Writing from Kansas State University and continues to work in academia as an administrator. Her short fiction has appeared in Chiron ReviewKaramuThe Battered Suitcase, and Menda City Review. She is the author of the novels All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsLast Will, and Lie Lay Lain. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas


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