All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
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 had the feeling again like I'd come up on a wild animal. Only instead of a fawn, she was like a fox kit I saw once, hit by the side of the road. On its feet, but dying.
This book is a handful. Just as the title suggests it's both wonderful and ugly and it's definitely the kind of book you either really enjoy or very much dislike. I, for one, enjoyed it but I do have very mixed feelings about the "obvious moral question" posed by it.
Right up to that moment it was sweet and funny. Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the bottom of her bare foot. I could see him doing that kind of thing to his own kid, but she wasn't She was somebody else's little girl.
And that's pretty much how this book read to me. I had totally forgotten about the whole "love story" aspect of the book (I like going into books not knowing what they're about so I never look at the blurbs/synopsis or anything when I start a story) and, at first, I thought the whole Kellen/Wavy thing was totally sweet. She desperately needed a friend, someone who understood her and Kellen really seemed like a good guy who could be trusted. Until I suddenly realised what this was going to be about and it hit me pretty hard.
Basically, because the story is so complex and shows many different perspectives, different angles to different situations, it very much leaves the reader to their own devices in figuring out what they think about the situation. Moreover, because the story is drawn out over a couple of years, the situation changes quite a bit over the course of the story.
Even Good Mama could all of a sudden say, "Don't eat that! That's dirty!" and stick her fingers in my mouth to get the food out. Even Good Mama could pour burning Listerine on my tongue to get it clean.
Personally, I very much opposed the romance that was going on when Wavy was still young. It's not just that I have little siblings and I couldn't help picturing them in that situation (which creeped me out big time) but also because I'm a swimming teacher. The kids I teach are between the ages of 4-14 and just the thought of any of them behaving anything like Wavy and Kellen was awful – it didn't help that my main obligation in the last couple of days was teaching, meaning that pretty much every time I had to take a break from reading I was with these kids (again: the being creeped out big time applies). Kellen definitely should have realized that the situation was not going into an okay direction and put a stop to it sooner.
But, never mind my views on that mess of a topic: I thought this book was fantastic. Sure, it deals with such an enormous and difficult situation but it never does that in a way which imposes opinion, as I said before. All of the perspectives were interesting and effective (through Amy's eyes I started caring for Wavy, through Wavy's eyes I started worrying about Donal and seeing Kellen as a friendly giant to be trusted, and different people's eyes had similar effects), which resulted in a very rich character portrayal I loved. Furthermore, the writing is beautiful, not in the stereotypical elaborate description sense but in a more personal on point kind of way. If I had the time, I'd have read this book in one sitting.
She was chattering and she couldn't stop. The dilemma, she wanted to say, is that people don't buy engagement rings for children.
However I wasn't really all that satisfied with the ending. I was way more interested in hearing about Donal rather than the constant back and forth between Wavy and Kellen. I guess I kinda got bored with it, but not really. The emotions seem to change, it seems more shallow which is why I started wishing for a resolve outside of the Kellen-Wavy universe. The first 4/5 of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was fantastic, the last fifth merely slightly above average.
While I loved the beginning of the book I'd given it 4.5/5 stars and considering the last fifth I'll make that 4/5 stars. Endings are important.
Name: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books