Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2016)
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.

344 pages, Hardcover

First published August 9, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Bryn Greenwood

5 books4,006 followers
BRYN GREENWOOD is a fourth-generation Kansan and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She is the NYT bestselling author of The Reckless Oath We Made, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Lie Lay Lain, and Last Will. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
58,286 (37%)
4 stars
58,247 (37%)
3 stars
23,814 (15%)
2 stars
7,862 (5%)
1 star
5,860 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 20,114 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
April 17, 2019

 photo IMG_2152_zpszdpqefax.jpg

oh, good, i get to be the first reviewer of this book on here. that's not something i usually worry about, but when it's a potentially controvershul book, i get a little leery of being the only target for potential outrage. i had one of the first reviews of Tampa on here, too, and i know i'm gonna get a reputation for being totes pro-pedophilia if i keep being such an early cheerleader for these kinds of books, but i'll risk it because this book right here is a stunner.

greg told me i would love it, and here is a reenactment of me reading the back of his copy:

"blah blah blah meth blah blah blah eight-year-old Wavy blah blah blah tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold blah blah blah powerful and shocking love story wait, WHAT?"

and i reared back and gave him my closest approximation of the skeptical single raised eyebrow and i said, "love story?" and greg said, "yeah." and i said, "between an eight-year-old girl and a grown-ass man?" and greg said, "yeah, kinda."

and part of me considered calling the authorities and getting him onto some kind of watchlist, but another part of me was naturally intrigued by an author with these kinda balls. with me, balls always win, so greg remains a free man. for now.

this is one of those books whose story, if you heard about it on the news or glimpsed some sensationalist headline, would be horrifying, but in THIS book, with THESE characters, where you are privy to interior monologues and backstories and a hundred examples of what defines them as people, it makes sense. it's two damaged people finding something in the other that answers a need, and it's unexpectedly touching. this is not a story told for shock value although it is occasionally shocking, and it should be noted that the book spans fifteen years, and is not quite as disturbing as we all feared, although it still has its moments of readerly discomfort.

still, it's an incredibly skillful balancing act greenwood pulls off here in terms of addressing the taboo subject matter, which is accomplished by the multiple pov's: half starry-eyed moodlit gloss and half pulling back and looking hard at this relationship from the outside. it's so, so impressive. vibrant. heartbreaking. sympathetic.

her writing is astonishing. but it's not a matter of description or dialogue or something i could demonstrate by snagging a pull-quote or two; her skill lies in the cumulative, not so much the extractable. she is a pure storyteller who has managed that rare (for me) feat of writing a book that cannot be set down without a little regret. i tend to read at an emotional remove so i crave that feeling of being sucked in and consumed by the power of a story or a landscape; i value immersive storytelling over all other writerly skill sets. if you can suck me in, you win - and this one did that for me - i stayed up until 4:30 reading it that first night and then got up again at 6 to resume, resenting that hour and a half of wasted time.

it's not perfect - wavy's character is a little unrealistic/inconsistent in her awareness and behavior and the last 1/4 didn't have the same emotional depth or richness as the beginning, so it read a little thin and rushed, but it's a badass powerhouse of a book and i am not here to bitch about the trifling. in fact, i'm rounding this 4 up to a 5 because no one can even stop me, and it was probably a 4.5 in my heart, anyway.


plus, maggie likes it:

 photo IMG_6596_zpsorlqajco.jpg

 photo IMG_6597_zps7s2wt6vh.jpg


congratulations! semifinalist in goodreads' best fiction category 2016!


it's official - coolest author-present ever!! thank you for this, and for writing this book, o bryn greenwood!!

 photo IMG_3235_zpsffp65lnq.jpg

review to come. for now -

WARNING - i came on here to post a status update for this book, but i wanted to make sure i wasn't about to give anything away, so i went to check the synopsis to see how they were handling it, only to find that part is still blank. however, there's a description in the giveaway details - which has a MAJOR spoiler that has not occurred in the book yet and i am on page 208 of a 379 page arc.


the book is awesome, so you'll want to enter the giveaway for it but don't go reading any descriptions. just click blindly.

UPDATE - i added a synopsis to the gr page, so now you don't have to go reading the giveaway synopsis and discovering something that happens around page 230, for goodness' sake.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,862 reviews30.1k followers
August 8, 2021
4.5 Stars

"She is just as real as I am."

^^^That was my favorite line and moment in a book that was filled with more than a few touching lines and moments.


Before I say anything, let's address the large-trunked mammal who hath set his fat ass in the middle of this ugly and wonderful room.


Unless you live in a faraway goodreads cave (which I am totally not knocking, faraway caves are legit comfy hangouts) you have probably heard that the H/h in this book first...get involved...when they are 13 and 24/5, respectively.


Now, this is a HUGE problem for some readers on a moral/comfort/ick-factor/whatever level and I totally respect that.

I don't presume to change people's minds and I'm not here to try.

We all believe, prefer and/or are comfortable/uncomfortable with different things.

And I'm down with that.

Some people can read about animals being slaughtered and I can't even read about one being left in a hot car for five minutes.

Others can't stand violence of any kind and I can read about torture and disembowelment and not even pause in my quest to get to the bottom of the Skinny Pop bag.


I thought Wavy was a really interesting character. She was quirky and different.

And she was quirky and different without being Manic Pixie Dream Girl different - which I LOVED.

GOD, I am sick of that trope.

Anycliche, back to Wavy.

I thought she was a really original character who lived a very original story.

And, even though she had a really shiteous childhood, I appreciated that - while still difficult and believably tragic - Greenwood didn't make it SO over the top tragic that it made me roll my eyes.

Seriously, that seems to be all the craze these days. Authors seem to think that saddling their characters with all of these heinously tragedy-filled pasts acts as automatic characterization.

But honestly?


All that does is make me roll my eyes and shake my head.

Another thing I really liked about this story was the layout.

Every chapter it jumped around to a different narrator and POV. Now, normally this would drive me batshit, but the way Greenwood did it here just really worked for me.

I thought this format served to give us even more insight into the story and the characters. In some ways, it reminded me a little bit of Nine Minutes in that I felt like Morgan Freeman was reading it to me.

In my living room.
Sitting on my couch.
Against the soundtrack of my dog slurping on her ass right next to my face.



I also really liked the story as a whole and the way that parallels were drawn between Wavy's blatantly abusive mother telling her she was "dirty" and Renee (who to me represented the "norm") being surreptitiously abused in a similar - and yet more socially acceptable manner - by being practically force-fed copious food and then being backhandedly asked seconds later how her diet was going.

Two completely different backgrounds and methods...and yet, kind of abusive all the same, no?

So, well done, Ms. Greenwood, authoring like this is truly refreshing.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
August 11, 2016
Right up until 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.

This book destroyed me. I have never read anything like it. If you know the basic premise - that this is a so-called "love story" between an adult man and a female child - you might be thinking Lolita! But nah, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is a completely different beast.

Ugly and wonderful really are great descriptors for this story. The best thing about it is the completely unsentimental storytelling that, with its constant switching between perspectives, as well as alternating first and third person, beautifully presents a dark tale of childhood, family and abuse.

It's so... not manipulative. The author narrates a series of events, using gorgeous writing, but it's a fantastic example of how showing works so much better than telling. We are never told how to feel. We are allowed to be disgusted, sad and angry on our own terms, and we are allowed to draw our own conclusions about the relationship this book portrays.

I came to the end of the novel with my mind reeling, my emotions scattered, and completely unsure exactly what I did feel about it... but one thing is certain: I felt. Oh hell, I felt.
She nodded against my arm and after that, we were quiet. We didn’t need to talk. We just laid there watching falling stars go streaking white through all that darkness.

The story is about a girl called Wavy and it is a tale that spans around fifteen years. Through the perspectives of Wavy's cousin, brother, teachers and friends, as well as Wavy herself, the story of her childhood emerges as one filled with physical and emotional abuse. Her mother is a drug addict, her father is violent, and her mother's issues with eating and germs manifest in Wavy's behaviour, which, in turn, earns frustration from her teachers and fellow pupils.

Then a motorcycle accident brings Kellen into her life. Kellen is a big guy with his own history of abuse at the hands of his father. Called a "fat slob" and generally thought of as a waste of space his whole life, there is an instant connection between these two outsiders.

While uncomfortable, disgusting and often graphic, it is so emotionally confusing because Kellen is not another Humbert. His motivations in his relationship with Wavy are loneliness and compassion, and he is not driven by sexual agenda. In fact, Wavy seems somehow removed from the regular notion of sexuality, existing on a plane where she is not an adult or child, male or female, but simply Wavy. Just herself.

I'm sure it will provoke many conflicting reactions, but there remains one overwhelming certainty: it's hard to not react passionately to it. Whether you view Wavy and Kellen as two unfortunate victims of their personal circumstances, or as a child being abused by an adult who should know better, their story is a compelling one.

Sad and disturbing. I don't think I'll ever get these characters off my mind.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
January 13, 2021
tw: pedophilia, sexual abuse

Let's pretend you have a little sister. Say she is 12 or 13. There's this big older guy she's been hanging out with lately, and you know he's at least 26 years old.
You walk into her room and there she is, on a table, completely naked, legs spread wide, he is sitting there, shirt off, pants open, touching her.
What do you do? What do you think? What do you feel?
That's exactly what I'm feeling reading this. It's not even discomfort any longer. It's shock and pure disgust.

Here are some disturbing quotes:

Three months spending every day in the same room with child molesters and rapists. The whole thing gave me a creeping dread of myself, but I didn't have to lie in the exit interview. Do you still have sexual fantasies about young girls? they asked. No. I never had. I thought about Wavy a hundred times a day, but Wavy was Wavy, not some young girl.

"If Wavy showed up tomorrow, I'd do it all over again. I loved her the first time I saw her and I still do."
"Love at first sight, huh? How old was she?"

Wavy was almost as small as she'd been at thirteen. She was all long legs and narrow in the hips. Her tits were perfect, but not even big enough to fill my mouth, let alone my hands. She hadn't hardly grown at all. Did it make me a pervert that I still thought she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen? Did it make me less of a pervert that twenty and thirteen looked the same on her?

I think these quotes stand for themselves.

A minor sexually involved with an adult is wrong. An adult sexually involved with a minor is a paedophile. No excuses. Full stop. So why is everybody too shy to use this word? Why do I see so many 5 star ratings? Why do people think this is romantic? How can anyone in their right mind approve of this?
Yes, this book is beautifully written and utterly compelling. And I hate leaving books unfinished because I feel like I can't judge a book rightfully without reading the last word, which is why I didn't DNF it. But not the most amazing book in the world would set paedophilia right. Not one. So open your eyes. And call it what it is.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Christy.
3,916 reviews33k followers
March 17, 2022
5 stars


I love out of the box, controversial reads. I love stories that are a bit forbidden and/or on the taboo side. When reviews started coming in for this book I’d never heard of, I knew I had to read it asap. So I picked up the book around 10 pm thinking- I’ll just start it, see how it is. Yeah. I bet you all can guess what happened after that… I stayed up all night reading it. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. My eyes were literally burning when I reached 65%, but I carried on. When I finished, I thought I would crash immediately but I couldn’t sleep. My mind was on Wavy, Kellen, and their story.

Wavy’s story is not an easy story to read. She grew up with negligent parents and no one who really cared about her. Eight-year-old Wavy keeps to herself and tries to take care of her little brother. But who takes care of Wavy? No one. Until she meets Kellen. Kellen is around twenty when Wavy meets him. Kellen works for Wavy’s father, has tattoos and drives a motorcycle. Kellen becomes the only friend Wavy has and the only person who truly cares for her. Through her neglect and his loneliness, their love blossoms. Don’t get grossed out just yet, when Wavy is a child of 8, it is not a romantic love. Not at all. It’s a true friendship and a real love, without any sex, lust or anything inappropriate.


There were so many POV’s that shaped this story. We don’t just get Wavy and Kellen, we get many side characters. Normally, I don’t love that in a story but it really worked for the way this was told.

I love reading romance books- it’s my preferred genre. But is this a romance? I guess it is. But it’s more of a love story than true romance if that makes any sense. A lot of this story isn’t romantic and I think that’s what made it so special. The love between these two was beautiful and pure for much of the story and if it started as romance it wouldn’t have worked. This is a couple a rooted for. My heart broke for them both and I wanted nothing more than for them to have each other.

This is a completely unforgettable read. A truly remarkable read. This author’s writing style captivated me from the start. If you’re looking for a unique and unconventional love story that you won’t be able to put down, this is a must read. I’m sure this won’t be a book that everyone loves, but it worked for me. In fact, it’s a 2016 favorite of mine.

Profile Image for Jennifer Masterson.
200 reviews1,169 followers
August 31, 2016
This is emotionally draining and disturbing. I'm sorry. DNF. I think the audio made it feel all that more real. The writing is good. I almost feel like this book is going to put me into a slump. It truly freaked me out. The relationship between Wavy and Kellen is wrong. I don't care how good of a guy he is. I don't care how screwed up her mother is.

I'm sorry for initially saying that the novel is being marketed as YA. I think I'm wrong on that one.

Don't troll me for hating it, please.
Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,333 followers
August 30, 2016
Wow! This was a spectacular book. I devoured this story. Beginning to end, I was completely lost in this disturbing, yet beautiful, love story.

While I loved the story, I know that this is a story that many people will not enjoy. There are several difficult and highly controversial topics in this book. I'm pretty open-minded, but even I had a hard time with the relationship turning physical between Wavy (13-14 years old) and Kellen (25 or so years old). As a fictitious story, I was able to come to terms with it eventually. However, in no way would I ever condone that relationship in real life.

That being said, the emotions that this book elicited are the reason that I loved it. I was heartbroken, appalled and shocked by Wavy's daily life. As much as I found aspects of their relationship to be unsettling, I could not deny that the love between the two was sincere.

Kellen was the only person in Wavy's life that treated her with the slightest bit of compassion and concern. She was the same for him in many ways. These were two lost souls that clung to each other with everything they had.

The fact that Kellen was a father-figure, in many ways, to Wavy for so long made accepting their romantic relationship all that much harder for me. It just was unfathomable to me that Kellen would go there. Who does that?

Nonetheless, this book blew me away. I love a book that can make me feel the way this one did. I'm still feeling conflicted and uneasy with the content. That being said, I'm still thinking about it, and trying to figure out exactly how I feel, days later. That says a lot.

This book will definitely make an impression, be it good or bad. I loved it, but I also hated it at times. If you're looking for an emotional read that will tie you in knots, this is a great choice. It is a tragically beautiful story and completely captivating. This is a phenomenal piece of work and I will definitely be reading future books by this author.
October 20, 2020

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

Have you ever looked at the reviews for a book and wondered if you accidentally read a completely different book? Like, maybe some devious book gremlin sneaked into wherever books are sold and swapped the book jackets of a bad book and a good book? That's kind of how I feel right now: like I've been book-pranked.

ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS is a romance between a twenty-four-year-old man and a thirteen-year-old girl. Wavy is the daughter of abusive, mentally ill meth dealers. She's shunted from home from home for a while, from a grandmother who loves her but dies, to an aunt who doesn't love her and is afraid of the influence Wavy will have over her own girls, before being returned to her completely unfit parents.

Jesse Joe Kellen/Barfoot is a Choctaw man who is the child of alcoholic parents. His family is either dead or in jail. He currently works as a runner for Wavy's father, transporting drugs and sometimes beating people up if necessary. One day he has an accident, and Wavy is there to help him. She's eight-years-old and he's struck by what a beautiful child she is and how lonely she looks and how she doesn't seem afraid of him like everybody else. He feels bad about the way her family treats her, and ends up immersing himself into her life, stepping in for her parents. Sort of.

Here's the thing. Wavy is thirteen. When they meet, she's eight. But then they start having lots of physical affection between them that is inappropriate - kissing, touching, hand-holding. It turns sexual when she's thirteen. Some people have said that their relationship wasn't sexualized but I really did not get that impression. It felt very sexualized. He calls her breasts "little tits." When she gets dressed, he calls it "a strip tease in reverse".  Even when Wavy is 21, she's still described as child-like. Her roommate says she looks like a "child prostitute" when she's wearing makeup.

At first, I thought I was going to like ALL THE UGLY AND BEAUTIFUL THINGS because the writing and story are good, and even though it employs the use of multiple POVs, the story kept moving at a decent pace. But Wavy and Kellen's relationship made me very uncomfortable and I cringed reading it. What Kellen did was sexual abuse, because he took advantage of a very lonely, abused, and neglected child. It doesn't matter that Wavy consented to what he did and even sought it out; she was not in any emotional or psychological state to say yes because she was thirteen.

I really did not like that Wavy's aunt was demonized for calling the cops on Kellen either. Yes, he got sent to jail for six years. Because he did sexual things with a child.

I will give the author props for writing a controversial book that will stir up dialogues about abuse, consent, and sex. I'm sure it will draw inevitable comparisons to LOLITA, too. But I actually think I liked LOLITA better than this because Humbert was so unambiguously the bad guy, and that wasn't quite as clear in this book. Maybe that makes it a more compelling read for some, but that was what turned me off of it, and it disturbs me a little how many people are shelving this as "romance."

1.5 stars.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,606 reviews5,989 followers
May 11, 2016
This book won’t be for everyone..and I get that:
Palm Springs commercial photography

My thing is: I read a ton of books. After a while I’m begging for something, anything that is fresh and new. This book is that with big brass balls.

Wavy’s story is not a pretty one. We first meet her when she ends up at her Aunt Brenda’s door. Her mom is in prison, no one can take her, she doesn’t really talk, and she hates to be touched. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. Brenda can’t deal with Wavy. She sneaks out at night and wanders and Brenda is scared that she will drag her daughters down the wrong road with her. She ends up with Grandma but even that doesn’t last.

Mom comes to pick her up and now she has a new brother Donal to look after also. They return to their life at the “ranch”. The Ranch is a meth cooking hideout. Her dad Liam is leader of the den. He uses a different woman each time he drops his pants.
Palm Springs commercial photography

But Wavy’s mom Val is his wife, what time she isn’t lying in filth or stoned out of her mind. She tells Wavy her thoughts on men and food. And passes on her fear of germs. (They will get in you)
Palm Springs commercial photography

It’s no wonder Wavy is so messed up.

Then one day Kellan shows up on his motorcycle bringing them some groceries. He wrecks his motorcycle that day and Wavy gets him help. Kellan is not your typical guy that you imagine a girl looking at twice. He’s big. He’s wooly. He gets told at one point in the story that he needs to use deodorant. But that’s the start of it. Wavy is eight years old. (Not the romance part you pervert-the friendship.)

I totally saw him as a younger version of this:
Palm Springs commercial photography

Kellan is one of the only people that Wavy can bring herself to say any words too. They talk about the stars and he just completely understands her.

As she grows up Kellan stays by her side. He is the person she goes to when she can’t get registered for school because neither of her parents can get their act together to make sure she is going. He stands in when she needs someone. He is the one that protects her.

The relationship between Wavy and Kellan changes over time. With Wavy there is no questioning. She knows he is the only one for her. Ever.

Then something bad happens and both their lives are torn apart. I KNOW that those ages of these two should have made me want them to be apart. But fuck that. Who am I to judge someone else’s life?

Wavy’s life is messed up. Kellan is one of the only good things in the whole thing. I completely rooted for these two characters.

I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.
Palm Springs commercial photography

This book is going on my favorites list. Characters that aren’t cookie cutters. Amazing story-line. Some great writing. If it doesn’t win some kind of award I’m going to be all ticked off because I loved every single word.
Palm Springs commercial photography

There was only one thing that was sorta wonky for me in this book and honestly it’s not a biggie because I didn’t even notice until I was half-way though the book. The time period was the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I don’t remember meth being the drug of choice during that time period. See the thing is…My dad was a drug dealer during that time period. I think this book got into my heart and head so much because some of my past was similar to Wavy’s. I remember being at school and the police officer’s bringing in some drug paraphernalia and it being some of my dad’s stuff. Raids and a fear of the police were nothing new at that house. (Relax-my dad served his time later and my family went even more nuts into religion-but that’s a whole nuther story) My family is a total Jerry Springer wet dream.

Does that mean that I was in a thing with an older guy? Nope, it means I get where this character is coming from. Real life is not the rich guy sweeping in with his red room. This story is more real life. It’s dark. It’s dirty. Life ain’t always pretty.

Booksource: Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in exchange for review. THANK YOU!

Palm Springs commercial photography
I read this one with a great group of weirdo's. You can check them out..Kelly, Steve, Allisa, Dan 2.0, Sandra and Sh3lly

Profile Image for Deanna .
688 reviews12.5k followers
June 6, 2016
WOW! I don't even know where to start!! As others have said this book is NOT for everyone. But I was hooked from the moment I started reading.

This book made my head hurt at times as it made me question so many different things. Parts of this book made me very uncomfortable. I honestly felt many different emotions while reading it. Emotional actually doesn't even begin to describe how this book make me feel but it's the first word that comes to mind.

The story and the characters got in my head and under my skin and I don't see them leaving anytime soon.

At first I wondered about the title but honestly, it's perfect for this book.

****Possibly some very minor spoilers****

The book begins in March of 1975 told from Amy's point of view. Amy is seven when her five year-old cousin Wavonna Quinn (nicknamed Vonnie then Wavy) first comes to live with them.

Amy learns a lot about "The Tragic and Edifying Story of Wavonna Quinn" by eavesdropping on her mother when she talks to her book club friends.

Wavy hasn't had an easy life so far and seen things that no five-year old should ever have to see. She doesn't talk very much but she's smart as a whip.

Thanks to an old neighbor, Wavy can identify all of the stars and constellations. It's one of her favorite things.

"Mr. Arsenikos said if you knew the constellations you would never get lost. You could always find your way home."

Wavy has some strange habits that drives her Aunt Brenda crazy but endears her to Amy. About six months later, after a late night wandering incident it's decided that Wavy is a danger to her cousins and is sent to live with their Grandmother. We learn more about Wavy's mother Val from Grandma Helen. She explains that nowadays, Val would probably be diagnosed with something, but at the time, they just lived with what they called her "germ problem" along with her other issues.

When she first brings Wavy home she realizes how very different her granddaughter is, but she accepts Wavy for who she is and they start to forge a tight bond. I LOVED her grandmother. Sadly, Wavy isn't with Grandma for very long.

When her mother is released from prison she tells eight-year-old Wavy that everything is going to be different this time. For two weeks she's "Good Mama" doing the laundry, cooking dinner etc. Then two weeks later Wavy wakes up to "Scary Mama" and realizes that nothing is going to be different. Except now she is not only taking care of herself but also her new baby brother, Donal. Their father, Liam is no real help either. He mostly stays down the hill taking care of his "business" and when he is around Wavy knows to stay out of the way. With Good Mama, Scary Mama, Happy Mama, or Sad Mama we quickly learn why Wavy doesn't talk very often, why she doesn't eat and why she won't let people touch her.

One day Wavy is out in the meadow when "A Giant" drives by on his motorcycle. As he turns to look at Wavy he startles and ends up wiping out on the gravel road. Wavy sees something kind in the giant's eyes and tries to help him. He's an ex-con and associate of her father's and his name is Jesse Joe Kellen.

Jesse Joe Kellen quickly realizes that Wavy is all on her own with parents who don't seem to give a thought to her care. He quickly becomes everything to Wavy. He buys food, takes her to school and keeps her safe. As time goes by the friendship between this unlikely pair grows into much more.

"He smelled good. Sweat and motorcycle and wintergreen. No stinking weed smoke. No perfume. No sadness. He smelled like love"

Now this is where many readers may become very uncomfortable. It may make you uneasy at times and horrified at others but at the same time you may not feel like you would normally in this situation. But many readers may find it very hard to wrap their brains around certain parts of this ....love story.

We read how Wavy and Kellen view their relationship. But we also get to see how other people feel about it. Not just Wavy's Aunt Brenda and her cousins, but also school teachers, social workers, judges, lawyers, drug dealers, jewelers and many others.

This truly is a shocking and powerful book that is controversial and will likely be the topic of a lot of debates. Possibly some very heated debates.

Was it all completely realistic? Maybe not. But in the end this is a fiction book and by remembering that it helped me to relax and just appreciate the story. Are my beliefs changed by what I read? Not really. Maybe this sounds strange and I don't really know how to explain what I mean, but I just feel a bit different after reading this.

I was so invested in this book, nothing could pull me away (except when my Kindle died and I couldn't find the charger). I couldn't possibly guess how it was going to end. I didn't care that it was four in the morning. I HAD to know what was going to happen next.

I am so impressed by this author. There were quite a few characters in this book, and they were all interesting and well developed. I had no problem following the story-line and keeping all of the characters straight. In my opinion the story was fantastic and very well written.

So yes, this book may not be for everyone but I'm really glad that I read it and I can't wait to read more from Bryn Greenwood.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.7k followers
November 6, 2018
“I love you all the way.”

Never in my life have I read a book that made me feel as uncomfortable as this one managed to. Gritty, raw and wrong on so many levels, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things brought up feelings I wasn’t prepared for.

There were so many times, I wanted to hate this book, to throw it across the room and somehow forget about everything I’d read. Riddled with emotion and a level of constant moral questioning, this story toes the line of pedophilia and begs for acceptance. It’s the story of a little girl and a grown man falling in love.

Even now, there’s a part of me that wants to hang my head in shame because when it really boils down to it, I liked this story. It makes me question, what the fuck is wrong with me? Am I such a sucker for a love story that I’m willing to overlook every repulsive moment between Wavy and Kellan and feel some sort of happiness for the way things turned out, instead? That all of the wonderful things could really wash away the ugly? I guess my answer has to be yes.

It’s a guarantee, not everyone will be able to get over the things that feel wrong and dirty. At the end of the day, is it really okay that a little girl fell in love with a grown man and absolutely no one did anything to stop it? No way. Never. Not in a million years. I was utterly disgusted, repulsed and even angry about it.

That I managed to get from that point, to the place where I could appreciate the bright spot in the story—two damaged people finding love and acceptance in one another at all costs—should tell you the level of storytelling that Bryn Greenwood pulled off here. Without a doubt, it was the stellar writing that made this so compelling. Not just any author could deliver a controversial topic in such a way that people would feel the need to keep reading and admit they actually enjoyed such a warped and manipulative story.

*ARC provided by St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,021 reviews97 followers
February 19, 2023
The interview below review-

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a book that was very challenging for me to read due to the content. The title is nothing short of absolute perfection in describing the book. I went into it completely blind and didn't read much about it aside from a few reviews. I had no idea what was in store.

There were a few times in the book I wanted to stop reading. What compelled me to finish the book was the constant reminder that this story could be real no matter how hard it is to accept. This is a book of fiction, but there are lives comparable to this and they're very true. Just because they're out of sight, out of mind, doesn't mean they aren't happening. The author could’ve written it differently, but then it wouldn't be what it is. I don't think by reading and finishing the book you're necessarily celebrating the events that take place.

Mild spoiler
The controversy with readers is the relationship. I get that the relationship Wavy chooses seems wrong, but just look at her life: her parents, exposure, and experiences are not what most would consider "normal" and she's not able to enjoy her childhood as it is. Instead, she's having to live like an adult and she experiences adult situations at a very young age. Because she doesn’t have anybody— a nonexistent family and no support from anyone —Kellen becomes her family and they fall in love.

After all, it's just a story. To me, it was captivating. The book is written very well and I loved it. I'm delighted to have discovered this author and I'm looking forward to reading more. I'll leave it at that. :)


Interview with Bryn Greenwood

What inspired you to write this book?

Bryn Greenwood: It started the way most of my books start. I saw something that set off a series of thoughts that turned into a story. I saw a man riding a motorcycle on a dirt road through a hay field. I immediately began to wonder who he was and where he was going. When I got home I started writing. Kellen wrecked his bike, Wavy saved his life, and everything followed on from there.

Do you think your writing will stay in any specific genre(s)?

Bryn Greenwood: I actually write in several different genres, including literary, fantasy, science fiction, and historical. So far, only my literary books have found an audience and a publisher.

Do you read a lot? What are some of your favorite books, genres, and authors?

Bryn Greenwood: Not as much as I’d like to. That’s the trade off for writing. It takes up some of my reading time. I will read very nearly anything without shame, but close to my heart are Anthony Trollope, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and Emma Donoghue.

What was the most difficult part of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?

Bryn Greenwood: All books are hard in their own way, and this one was no different. There were moments where I didn’t like how the story was going, and I tried to write my way out of it. I hated seeing Wavy suffer. I hated some of the decisions that Kellen made. The heart wants what it wants, though, and every time I tried to write around it, I kept getting tripped up. As a result, a lot of things got deleted. That’s what happens when your first draft is over two hundred thousand words, and you write a hundred thousand words of an entirely different version of the story.

Did you have to do much research for the book?

Bryn Greenwood: I mostly found myself having to do memory checks. Because I grew up in the rural Midwest in the 70s and 80s, I personally knew most of the things I wanted to write about, but I had to check certain things like exact dates on music, movies, slang terms, and various other pop culture references. For example, I had to check that Poltergeist really would have been in theaters on the night of Kellen’s twenty-sixth birthday, and that “gag me with a spoon” would have been in common usage in Tulsa later that same summer.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Bryn Greenwood: I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Writer’s procrastination, yes. If I find myself struggling with a project, it’s usually because I’m avoiding it. Either because it’s difficult or because I’m not that interested in it. The way around it then is simple: work harder or move on to something else.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite “writing” atmosphere?

Bryn Greenwood: I typically write while sitting on my couch with my dogs. It’s not my favorite place to write, but the dogs seem to like it. I will write almost anywhere, and in fact, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was written while I was camped out in a friend’s spare bedroom.

Do you have any advice for other novice or aspiring writers?

Bryn Greenwood: Read as many books as you can. Reread the ones you love most until you understand why you love them. Then write the things you feel most passionately about.

I read online that your father was a drug dealer at one point. Does this in any way connect to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things?

Bryn Greenwood: Because I knew quite a bit about that life, it was easy for me to place the events within the meth culture of the 70s and 80s. Some of the events and people in the book are the product of my personal experiences, but there are no direct correlations. Liam is nothing like my father, and Val is not my mother. Did I know some people who were a bit like Butch and Dee and Sandy? Yes, but I don’t think any of the actual people I know would recognize themselves in the borrowed traits of my characters.

Did you have many supporters that helped you to get this book published, and at any point did you feel like it was a risk due to the content?

Bryn Greenwood: Obviously, my agent and my editor at St. Martin’s Press were my strongest supporters for this book. My agent loved the story enough that she took it to auction. My editor loved it enough that she bought and published it. Neither of them ever suggested to me that I should change it. As for me, the riskier something is the more likely I am to try it. I wrote the book with my whole heart and it never occurred to me to be afraid to send it out into the world. I would rather write books that are problematic but passionate than something I feel lukewarm about.

How have you dealt with the controversy of your book?

Bryn Greenwood: I’ve tried to focus on talking about the issues that I think are at the heart of the book, most especially consent. People frequently look only at Wavy and Kellen’s relationship, but there are so many other places in the book where the question of Wavy’s ability and right to consent or to refuse consent comes into play. So many adults want to “do what’s right” by forcing her to do or be something other than what she is. As much as we may not approve of the choices Kellen makes, he’s one of the only adults in the book who doesn’t violate Wavy’s consent. It’s important to me to get people talking about that.

Did you plan the controversial age gap between Kellen and Wavy, or is it just something you had to write?

Bryn Greenwood: I don’t plan much of anything when it comes to my writing. Characters tend to walk into my stories as they are, fully formed. I met Wavy and Kellen at the same time they met each other: by the side of the road next to a wrecked motorcycle. They were who they were–an eight-year-old girl and a twenty-year-old man–and I didn’t try to change them. I didn’t know they were going to develop such a strong emotional bond, but when they did, I just kept writing.

Have you ever been in an abusive relationship, or dealt with the victims of such, since the mindset of the victims were captured so accurately?

Bryn Greenwood: I worked for many years at a domestic violence shelter, so I’ve met and talked with many victims of DV, both adults and children. It’s a situation that so often appears in fiction and film for sensationalist purposes, so it was very important for me to try to show what abusive relationships look like when they’re not dramatized. In fact, it was only after I’d worked at the shelter for some time that I realized one of my previous relationships was verbally and emotionally abusive. Abuse that doesn’t include physical violence can be so invisible in our society.

Will there be any other books that will include the characters from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things?

Bryn Greenwood: Probably not. If people are interested in deleted scenes, including bonus scenes that are outside the timeline of the book, they can sign up for my newsletter via my website.

When can we expect another book and will it contain the same level of controversy?

Bryn Greenwood: Certainly there will be more books. I have no idea whether they’ll turn out to be controversial.

How do you deal with negative book reviews?

Bryn Greenwood: I mostly avoid them. After all, it’s too late to revise the book to please anyone else. Plus, I remind myself that not every book is for everybody. People who don’t like my book, it’s not for them.

Are there any social media platforms or websites that readers could connect with you?

Bryn Greenwood: My website is www.bryngreenwood.com.
I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @bryngreenwood. My Twitter feed is mostly politics, and my Instagram feed is mostly pictures of my boxers. Readers can also find me on Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/bryngreenwood...

Thanks for reading my review and interview!

August 5, 2020
1.5 stars
Wavy is a neglected and abused child who broke my heart. Her father is a meth dealer and her mother is an addict. She is constantly exposed to openly casual sex, and therefore, sees it as normal. The ugly.

When she meets Kellen, he is at first her protector and is genuinely concerned for her well-being. His life has not been an easy one either. He helps her in ways that no one else has and is the only person who truly seems to care about her. The wonderful. Finally someone sees what is happening and tries to help her.

And then the not-so-wonderful: the feelings grow sexual in nature. The problem is that one is a child who develops an unhealthy attachment to her caretaker, an adult man. Their relationship turns overtly sexual when she is 13. Unfortunately, the sex in this book is overly descriptive (what she witnesses and what she participates in), which to me just highlights the ugliness of it all. Such explicit details were unnecessary and gratuitous.

A love story, as many have described it? Not at all and I find it very disturbing that there are people who see it that way. Instead, this tale highlights the trauma and psychological damage that occurs to children who grow up as Wavy does. Do they see it as normal and as true love? Of course they do. They’ve never been exposed to a healthy loving relationship.

Wavy demonstrates many symptoms of abuse: fear of being touched, she rarely speaks, she has a mistrust of adults, she is secretive, she can't let anyone see her eat, and she is hyper-sexualized. The only types of relationships she knows are sexual ones. It is hardly a surprise she latches onto Kellen or that she is the one who makes the first move. Children who feel unloved often turn to inappropriate relationships to fill the void in their lives.

I find both Wavy and Kellen to be sad characters who are trying to survive their dysfunctional lives in the only way they know how. I don’t think Kellen was a predator or pedophile in the traditional sense. It still doesn’t make the relationship right. There are many gray areas in life. But the sexualizing of children is a black and white issue for me and it is never ok. Yes, Wavy perhaps seems older than she is because of her upbringing, but emotionally and developmentally she is still child. A traumatized child.

The author writes what she knows. Her father was a drug dealer who ends up in prison, and as a young girl, she says she dated much older men, starting at age 13. She says she was made to feel ashamed and isolated because of it. She has openly questioned the rights of society to impose a legal age of consent onto children. Is this book her way of dealing with her experiences and framing it as legitimate? I don't know, but if so, she failed with this reader.

Wavy had a chance at a college education and a normal life. The missing piece is she didn’t receive the psychological therapy she so desperately needed. The real tragedy is that children such as Wavy are not rescued from such toxic childhoods filled with abuse and neglect. Not by other family members, not by teachers, not by those in authority. Are there children growing up this way? Sadly, yes.

If this book led to discussions on how we as a society can better protect our children then it would get 5 stars. But most of the discussions I've read are calling it a 'romantic love story', which I find shocking.

As a book that seems intent on legitimizing the relationship between Wavy and Kellen and calling it a love story, it gets zero stars. The author missed the opportunity to take this book in an entirely different direction in the end, but did not. She missed an opportunity to advocate for abused children but instead chose to legitimize a sexual relationship between a child and an adult.

I'm giving it 2 stars because I did finish it.

** Edited on 12/28 to add these thoughts to my review after reading an interview of the author's:
The author makes much of the point of "consent". That Kellen was the only adult who honored Wavy's desire to not be touched. That Wavy's consent was respected by Kellen, and he only touched her after she gave consent. But I do not think a child of 13 is capable of giving consent to a sexual relationship with an older man. They are children, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Wavy was exposed to casual sex among the adults in her life from a young age. She saw women being used as sexual objects to be used by men. Not surprisingly, she saw it as natural and as no big deal. Children depend on adults to protect them. Even from themselves. Her thoughts and feelings were not natural for a 13 year old. They were the result of her neglect and abuse. And that is the crux of my opinion of this book. She desperately needed an adult to protect her.
Profile Image for  A. .
1,162 reviews4,271 followers
February 13, 2019
5 Stars? 1 Star?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

God, this must be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written.

This book is one of the most gripping, absorbing and addicting books I’ve read this year. I read it in one sitting holding my breath every time I turned a page. Out of more than a thousand books on my shelves this one sticks out the most. I’ll never forget it.

The writing is good and so real that I forgot for a while that I was reading a book. The plot is movie-worthy. The characterization is great. The story is different, unique and thought-provoking.

Normally it would end up on my “favorite” shelf.


Profile Image for Ninoska Goris.
269 reviews162 followers
August 2, 2017
English - Español

This story is not pretty. The truth is that it is not for everyone. It is the story of Wavy and Kellan, two people with difficult homes and child abuse. Yes, it is a love story, but not in the beginning.

Wavy is the daughter of a violent man, womanizer and drug dealer, and a drug addicted mother with deep emotional, existential and psychological problems, who transmits to her daughter her fears regarding food and germs.

Kellan is big and overweight, biker and tattooed, ex-convict and son of an abusive parent. He is not attractive, but generous, of a great personality and, most importantly for Wavy, respects her space and accepts hers silences without questioning them.

They meet when Wavy is eight and Kellan has an accident in his engine and the connection is instantaneous. He is an adult and she is a girl and although it ends up being a love story, it is not so in its beginnings. He realizes how lonely and helpless Wavy is and takes it as a responsibility. Wavy's life is difficult and Kellan is the only good thing in it.

She grows up with Kellan at her side, he protects her, takes care of her house, goes to school. Their relationship changes over time, but something bad happens in their lives and puts it upside down.

This story lasts fifteen years and is from different points of view, which greatly enriches the story. It is sad, overwhelming and powerful. It will make you feel much more of a feeling.

- - -

Esta historia no es bonita. La verdad es que no es para todo el mundo. Es la historia de Wavy y Kellan, dos personas con hogares difíciles y abusos infantiles. Si, es una historia de amor, pero no en el inicio.

Wavy es la hija de un hombre violento, mujeriego y traficante de drogas, y de una madre drogadicta y con profundos problemas emocionales, existenciales y psicológicos, que le transmite a su hija sus temores con relación a la comida y los gérmenes.

Kellan es grande y con sobrepeso, motorista y tatuado, ex convicto e hijo de un padre abusivo. No es alguien atractivo, pero es generoso, de una gran personalidad y, lo más importante para Wavy, respeta su espacio y acepta sus silencios sin cuestionarlos.

Se conocen cuando Wavy tiene ocho años y Kellan tiene un accidente en su motor y la coneccion es instantánea. El es adulto y ella una niña y aunque termina siendo una historia de amor, no es así en sus inicios. El se da cuenta lo sola y desamparada que Wavy está y la toma como una responsabilidad. La vida de Wavy es difícil y Kellan es lo único bueno que hay en ella.

Ella va creciendo con Kellan a su lado, el la protege, se encarga de su casa, de que vaya a la escuela. Su relación va cambiando con el tiempo, pero algo malo pasa en sus vidas y la pone de patas arriba.

Esta historia dura quince años y es desde diferentes puntos de vista, lo que enriquece mucho la historia. Es triste, sobrecogedora y poderosa. Te hará sentir mucho más de un sentimiento.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
January 7, 2020
Sister Read Review by Norma & Brenda
One word.....AWESOME!!

If we could give this more than five stars we most definitely would. But, since we can't this gets another five ***** sparkly stars from me! My sister, Brenda and I decided to do another sister read and this time around we chose ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by BRYN GREENWOOD. What an extremely good choice we made in reading this one together. This is by far the best book we have read in quite some time and we have read some pretty good books lately.

ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by BRYN GREENWOOD is a disturbing, powerful, and an unconventional love story that was beautifully written. We found that her writing allowed us to be disturbed and moved at the same time without glorifying or romancing the subject matter.  The title was perfect for this novel as we were showed the ugly of addiction, neglect, and abuse along with the wonderful things of love, strength, acceptance, trust, and commitment.

Your beliefs will be questioned constantly while reading this one. Is this right or wrong?
Now there were a few things that we didn't totally agree with and found ourselves questioning while reading this one but the way that the author delivered this story was absolutely riveting and hard to put down.

The author pushes the boundaries here with a story about two lonely, flawed characters who find that their place is with each other and how they are able to accomplish that.  Kellen shows us how he is committed by the bond he shares with Wavy by changing things for the sake of Wavy and Donal’s safety and livelihood.  There is more depth to this novel than what we might think as a forbidden or unconventional love story if you are able to distance yourself from that.

The story is told in quite a few voices along with Wavy and Kellen's from their own perspectives which was easy to follow along with all the characters and the storyline. Allowing us to see that everyone has their own views and how it is perceived and how it ultimately effects them.

At the end of the book we could not judge Wavy and Kellen, we just accepted it and all The Ugly and Wonderful Things.

Powerful quote: "I AM AS REAL AS YOU ARE."

To sum it all up it was well written, interesting, fast-paced, somewhat disturbing read, with a very satisfying ending. Would highly recommend!!

Review written and posted on our themed book blog Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading.

Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
August 4, 2020
DNF..............For me this was a case of Know when to hold'em and know when to fold'em

I am certainly not singing with the choir on this one but I have to say how the book affected me regardless.

The Description on NetGalley begins with the following" A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.
Personally I didn't find the relationship between a thirteen year old child and a man as provocative or beautiful, I just felt really uncomfortable the further along the book I read until I came to a point which I thought, Ok this is getting downright ugly and disturbing and I need to dump this one as I felt I was entering into territory that I certainly do not enjoy reading.
I feel this is going to be the controversial summer read and there will be many opinions along the way of which mine will just be one.

Yep! the writing is good, the characters are well formed but this story just doesn't work for me and no amount of good writing or well formed characters will encourage me to read any further. It took me 7 days to get to 50% in the Novel and I realized I actually hated picking up the book.

I need to point out that I am in the minority with my negative review on this book and urge readers to please read many of the other marvellous 5 and 4 star reviews before making a decision whether to read this book or not as my option is only my reaction to the story and people react differently to storylines and subjects.

My Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this copy in return for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,950 followers
June 17, 2017
I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those books.

Holy crap on a saltine cracker!

I was right, it was one of those books. It had me in sad tears, in anger, in Omg moments and in happy tears.

Where do I even start people?

I am so in love with Wavy, Donal and Kellen. Yeah, there were some things that made me cringe with Kellen but it wasn't the way that it seemed. Living the kind of life Wavy and her brother Donal had to live, there is not anything normal and they only had one savior, Kellen.

In the beginning we read about Wavy staying with her aunt and her cousins. She does strange things, she doesn't talk, but she's fun to one of her cousins. Then she goes home with her mother Val. And her mother is pregnant. Donal comes a little later and Wavy takes care of him.

Wavy's parents are crazy. Her father Liam doesn't even live with them, he lives down the road with his drug stuff and women. Their mom is crazy train and you can't talk to her at all. I can't even begin to tell you how Wavy lives. How she eats. These are things you need to read for yourself.

The only person that cared for Wavy was Kellen. He's older, he's a biker that has done some bad things. But in this world that Wavy lives in, he's an angel. He takes her to school, he buys things she needs for school and just everything. When Donal gets a little older he tags around a little bit too. But he doesn't get treated as bad as Wavy.

The kids go back and forth from their normal aunt's house. I really didn't like her at all. I can understand where she's coming from with things but she lives in a perfect world and things aren't always perfect.

Wavy forms an unnatural crush on Kellen. I mean that is bound to happen right? Things just take all kinds of twists and turns from there and I am so glad, so so glad, that after so many years things turn out right. But it was a hard road to get there for many people and some, just didn't make it at all.

I'm so glad I finally read this book! I couldn't even put it down!

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews25.1k followers
May 8, 2018
*4 Stars*

This story takes a bold and honest look at forbidden love in its most controversial form: a grown man in his twenties falling for a child.

Kellen and Wavy’s love from a distance would seem perfect—one we’d all strive to obtain. It’s a deep love; a respectful love; a faithfully sound love; a genuine love that’s complete and equally reciprocated. Problem is that pesky illegal and highly immoral age gap.

This book challenges us ... It asks us not to condone this love, but to take a long, unflinching look at it. Really LOOK at it. Is this love strong and pure enough to accept through the passage of time, when Wavy becomes “of age”? Or will the technical element of pedophilia wreck any chance of that for us as readers?

You’ll have to be the judge. But I can tell you this: there is nothing black and white about this journey. It will simultaneously pain your heart and later warm it. It will cause you to cringe but hope. It is complicated, but also feels so easy, and it’s not a story I’ll soon forget.

The writing stays natural and simple, as it forms this complex tale. The plot moves slowly, and even its severe dramas seem to lack the sharp edge that would otherwise ignite chaos.

Why not five stars?: I was pulled in, but not engulfed. This story didn’t affect me quite as much as I’d anticipated, nor as deeply as it seemed to have affected other readers, and that’s not due to its controversy. I honestly felt this was a trifle too slow and a bit uneventful at times, (surprisingly enough), however, I still found it to be a solid four-star, one-of-a-kind read.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,988 followers
November 29, 2016
This book was crazy, therefore I must express my feelings with GIFs. If you don't like GIFy reviews - too bad!

So this book started and it was pretty good. The main characters live a difficult life and everything is quite sketchy:

Then some of the relationships get a little bit questionable:

Then, the you know what hits the you know what:

From there on out, I just wasn't sure what to think anymore:

I enjoyed the writing and was enthralled with the story, but man oh man - the subject matter was tough! I cannot say that I would recommend this to someone because I kind of worry what they would think I thought of them if THIS is the book I thought they would like.

So, read it, but if it weirds you out, don't blame me!

Profile Image for Rebecca.
266 reviews277 followers
August 31, 2022
“Feeling dead was better than when my heart hurt. Sometimes I thought it might burn through my ribs while I was asleep, and smolder in the sheets until the whole house caught fire.”

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold. By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery.

Ok, first up, this book deals with an unconventional and controversial (illegal) romantic relationship. It was, at times, an uncomfortable read. The book brought up a lot of emotions from discomfort and disgust to even a weird sort of acceptance. A lot of controversial topics from drug use, domestic violence, and pedophilia are present in this book.

Having said that, I couldn’t help but be enveloped by the story of little Wavy. I felt incredibly connected to the story and the writing is just beautiful. Written in a very tender way, this is a very touching story. I think the best way to read this book is to put everything out of your mind, and just enjoy it with the flawed characters and the controversial aspects. The character work in this book is excellent.

A raw, real, and painfully thought provoking novel. You can tell the Author really poured her heart and soul into this book.

Thank you so much Elise (The Pixie Reader) for recommending this book to me. You are wonderful 🙏🏻💖

I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Sheila.
973 reviews86 followers
July 10, 2016
1 star--I didn't like it.

This book is a page turner and is well written; characterization was excellent. However, it attempts to normalize sex between a child and an adult. That's not "romantic" or "uncomfortable," as some readers have said. It's criminal. This is not a gray area for me. I felt sorry for Wavy (who acted out in ways you'd expect from a sexually abused child), and annoyed that her aunt, the adult who worked hardest to separate Wavy from her abuser, was vilified by the narrative.

The court scene in this book reminded me a lot a court scene in Firefly, which is a completely vile book that glorifies pedophilia.

Read Lolita instead.

I received this review copy from the publisher on NetGalley. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review; I appreciate it!
Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,197 followers
August 18, 2016
I have read a lot of good books lately, but this one I just loved!! I keep reading the things that some people mention about feeling uncomfortable at certain things in the book, I never did, I truly just saw the love and compassion right away. Some people go through so much in their lives from early on that they become wise and more mature very early and that's what happened to Wavy..that's my opinion..I loved the short chapters with the voices of all the different cast of characters
I was very invested in this book, it was raw, it was beautiful..
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews603 followers
May 31, 2016
***Discussion Book.......is a plus!!!!!

Raw-to-the-bone..... Compassionate-to-the-heart

Things that are wonderful:
.....The book cover
.....The title is perfect
..... Absorbing, riveting, masterfully written novel
..... Memorable characters....(the good -the bad -and the ugly)
.....Brave - insightful - wise - controversial subject matter
.....Wavy is a wonderful 'star' character...from her name...her idiosyncrasies...her purity & innocence ....her uniqueness....her aloofness..... Stubbornness....her 'not' talking to kick-ass-expression....her ability to brighten the universe for us through her passion for the stars and constellations, and eat cake with her hands.

Things that are ugly:
....Meth-addicted birth mother
.....A child frightened around her mother ( when on drugs)
....Being raised in a household with verbal & physical abuse and adults flaunting their
sexuality around children.
.....Neglect and abandonment
..... Inappropriate usage of drugs - such as cocaine - in front of children ( putting a spoon up their nose starts to look like it might be the next step to growing up)

Things that are both WONDERFUL & UGLY:
LOVE......( unfortunately/fortunately) Inappropriate situations. It's the way it is....and the it isn't.

Thank You St. Martin's Press, Netgalley, and Bryan Greenwood

Profile Image for *TANYA*.
1,002 reviews313 followers
May 3, 2017
I debated with myself whether to read this book or not but my curiosity won out. The trepidation, the sense of foreboding, the confusion I felt at times??!!! My heart is heavy with emotions. A book that will stay with me for years to come.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
505 reviews1,485 followers
February 19, 2017
There is a whole lot of ugly going on in this novel. It made me feel uncomfortable and squirmy as I read it. But....

Wavy is the daughter of meth addicts. Parents who often ignore her and abuse her. She's silent most of the time, preferring not to speak and not to be touched as she has been taught by her mom it's dirty. She is; her body is; her mouth is.
The wonderful is her quandary of a relationship with a man, Kellen, whom she met when she was 8 and has allowed into her heart. He is her protection and safe haven in a life no child should have.
Kellen, genuine and sincere, loves her - nothing intimate for several years until she turns 14. Now, I'm not condoning a relationship with a child and an adult. No way, no how. It isn't ok. However, he was the only sure thing that held her steady during those formidable years. The only love she received unconditionally. In this case, Orion was aligned.

This book will turn you upside down and have you question your own morals. Was it wrong? Without a doubt. Was it right? For this story, as much as I don't want to admit, it was her saving grace.

Bryn, you've created a controversial and shocking story. It was beautifully written and although quite ugly, I will not be forgetting this one, likely ever. And for that, it is wonderful.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,482 reviews7,780 followers
February 10, 2017

Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“I loved her the first time I saw her and I still do.”

“Love at first sight, huh? How old was she?”


“That’s creepy.”

Hey remember Joe from a couple years ago and how you knew you really shouldn’t like him because he was like a psycho stalker with stabby tendencies, but then you fell in love with him anyway??? Well, allow me to introduce you to Kellen. He’s a "pedophile" and my favorite leading male so far this year (and this is book #100 for 2016 so that’s saying something) . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Let me backtrack a second. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (perfect title is perfect) is the story of Wavy, the daughter of not a real Mother-of-the-Year nominee. See Wavy’s momma Val is a meth head. Her paranoia of choice? Brainwashing her daughter from the time she was three that nothing is safe, physical touch can infect you and EVERY other human is dirty. Wavy’s daddy Liam tries to help out whenever he can by sending groceries and stuff up to the main house, but he mainly stays at a distance in order to run the family business – a meth lab. He also spends his free time snorting his product as well as smacking bitches around and dabbling in an unlimited amount of strange vajay, but that’s beside the point.

It should go without saying that Wavy’s life was in no way, shape or form “normal.” She had a brief reprieve when she was taken away from her mother, but then stuff and things happened which brought her back home – and this time (at the ripe ol’ age of 8) she got the joy of raising her mother’s new baby. Enter Kellen. He’s spent time in the pokey and looks like a grizzly bear, but most importantly he recognizes when a kid has been dealt the shit end of the stick at life. Since no one else is around to look after Wavy, Kellen takes it upon himself to do so. He makes sure the groceries get bought, takes her to and from school and gives her a safe place to hang out (the garage he works at) when things suck for her more than usual. Wavy and Kellen fill a void in each other’s lives. She loves him and he loves her back . . . and as the years go by so does this love . . .

“The girl looked . . . up at the man with sparkling eyes. He looked nervous and happy. They were not father and daughter. Romance. For better or worse.”

Obviously this is not a book for everyone. You really have to be able to separate what your real-life reaction would be and fully embrace Wavy and Kellen’s world – in the 80s, living in the sticks in a drug den, surrounded by criminals, drug addicts, rapists, you name it, with no one to trust but each other and a slow roller of a relationship that evolves over time with a leading male who knows his feelings are wrong, but is willing to do anything to make it right . . .

“There’s nothing wrong with me buying her a ring. She’s my girl.”

“Yeah, except for the part where you’re a pedophile.”

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (again, perfect title is perfect) doesn’t pussyfoot around the giant pink elephant in the room. In fact, it does the opposite by presenting statements like the above over and over lest the reader forget that this love story is taboo. Kudos to you, Ms. Greenwood, you get all the stars. If you’re adventurous enough to give this a shot, you might find yourself blown away by this powerful little story too. If you’re not???

Ha! Kidding. I don’t blame anyone for recognizing this isn’t their cuppa. Just don’t troll me, please : )

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and physical ARC to follow provided by the publisher. Endless thanks to both for giving me the opportunity to read something different from ANYTHING I have ever read before.

This was a buddy read for Alissa’s birthday. In honor of this national holiday, Steve, EDIT: Ron 2.0 because he FINALLY added the damn thing (who is such a fail he doesn't even have it marked as TBR yet), Shelby and myself commenced a buddy read.

Palm Springs commercial photography

Or your meth pipes. Tomato tomahto.

I can't wait to see what everyone else thought! Except Ron. Please note I think you will hate this and if you try to poop on my parade I will send these little bitches to your house and they will cut you . . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography


Our merry band of freaks has grown exponentially from the start of this buddy-up.
Sandra and Sh3lly and Christopher and Ginger and Jess all plan on shortlisting this too. Like I’ve said before . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
October 30, 2018
my mother has always told me the secret to a long and happy marriage is by marrying your best friend. she said if you find a love that is respectful, deep, genuine, caring AND it also happens to be with the one person who you want to tell all your secrets, have the most fun with, and who knows you better than you know yourself, well then, youre in for a world of happiness.

kellen and wavys relationship reminded me of that. this is a story of two broken people who came to help each other heal, brought out the best in each other, and in the process fell into a love that was meaningful, supportive, tender, and undoubtedly reciprocated. if anything, their love is the kind most people strive for. the only thing is the age difference.

the law states that any romantic or intimate activity with a minor is strictly illegal, and i completely agree with that. so why, then, did this story make me feel like the law is too unforgiving? i found myself wanting kellen and wavy to survive all the odds stacked against them. not just because it was taboo or illicitly exciting, but because their passion and concern for each other was a beacon of hope in what was such a bleak and desperate life for them both.

this is definitely one of those stories that pushes boundaries, challenges your beliefs, and makes you ponder about the grey spaces in what seems to be such a clear black-and-white world. i wouldnt say i condone the subject matter, the law is the law for a reason, but i can wholeheartedly say i understand why kellen and wavy felt the way they did. they were the kind of people who were better for loving each other, regardless of what some law says. and i think anyone who takes the time to read this book, and really looks at their love, will feel similarly.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Chrystal.
76 reviews3 followers
May 29, 2016
There is NO WAY to justify and normalize a sexual relationship between a thirteen year old girl and a twenty five year old man (that began when she was eight). All the great writing in the world doesn't negate from the premise of this book. I don't agree with a book trying to normalize or get us to empathize with this subject matter.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 20,114 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.