One of the main things I look at when I’m reading is well crafted prose. I honestly could not believe how beautifully written All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was – I mean, I went in not knowing a whole lot about the novel, I just figured it would be an average read, despite its high rating on Goodreads.
As I wrote in my Goodreads review, the book contains content that I, personally, found quite disturbing, BUT it is beautifully crafted content and because of that I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would.
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
Relationships that’ll make you go “ughh”
Okay, here’s a spoiler for you – this book contains a relationship between a child and an adult. This is the main principle of the novel – we follow this relationship as it progresses and honestly it’s quite disturbing at times.
I’m going to just come right out and say a lot of the relationship related content made me superbly angry. I can think of zero circumstances in which a child should have relationships with adults that are like the relationship in this one.
While the relationship doesn’t start off as sexual in nature, there comes a point in the story where I almost had to DNF because I found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with the way the relationship was developing.
Although, I would also like to state, I understand WHY the relationship formed. I get that the two characters who end up in this child/adult relationship found solace in each other because both come from pretty unloving backgrounds. It doesn’t change that this aspect of the novel was deeply disturbing.
A happy ending?
Since the story revolves around a relationship between a child and an adult, I often questioned why he wouldn’t just wait until she was older to engage. I understand that he wanted to gain her trust, but at the same time found myself thinking this was a tad manipulative. I mean, we’re talking about an adult and a child. It’s a power struggle for sure.
Regardless, because it was so blatantly obvious that the two main characters loved each other, I found myself hoping for an ending in which they could really be together without the rest of the world (*cough, cough* BRENDA) being judgmental jerks. Overall, I found the ending to be a satisfying closure to a really sad story.
Other random thoughts
I did have some other random thoughts while reading this novel. First of all, at some point, I expected there to be murder. When drugs are involved, it makes sense for other criminal activity to be abound. When the murder does happen, there was never a question in my mind about who dun it. I knew. It wasn’t surprising at the end when we find out.
Secondly, I found myself thinking I wouldn’t have minded the relationship aspect had it been more of a “man entertains idea of child being his girlfriend, but really he’s just looking out for her because her parents are dirtbags” sort of thing that evolved into a real relationship when she grew up. Love is love after all. But the thing that weirded me out is that he thinks she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen when she’s EIGHT. So it’s weird.
Lastly, even though the content of this book was disturbing, I enjoyed it. It was so well written I was able to forgive the creepy parts of the book and would definitely recommend it.
I couldn’t give this a 3.5 because I really couldn’t get over the creepy relationship. I also couldn’t get over how Liam’s many girlfriends encouraged the relationship. Or how the parents could agree to let their child marry someone. It’s weird, but a good book.
Have you read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things or any of Bryn Greenwood’s other novels? I’m interested to see if her other works are as disturbingly beautiful as this one. Let me know in a comment!
lover of literature. librarian in training.