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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Contemporary fiction

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Book of the year

Each year thousands of members vote for our Book of the Year award—congrats to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things!

by Bryn Greenwood

Excellent choice

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Quick take

The ultimate noir fairy tale...if you fell for Beauty and the Beast (and who didn't?) you will fall for this very offbeat pair.

Synopsis

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.

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. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. 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. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

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Why I love it

Prepare yourself for one of the strangest but also one of the most genuine, and unforgettable, love stories you'll ever read. Bryn Greenwood's pristine, evocative writing is perfect for creating this deeply hypnotic tale about love found in the most unlikely of places - a backwoods meth lab in the rural Midwest.

Wavy is the daughter of a man who runs the meth lab. Her circumscribed world is woefully bereft of anything wonderful; her short life has been a daisy chain of abuse, abandonment, and hopelessness. When we first meet her, she is just a child, already deeply scarred by mistreatment at the hands of her drug-addled mother and drug-producing father. An unlikely rescuer appears in the shape of Kellen, the hired muscle at the lab, an over-sized misfit just as damaged as Wavy - but more than twice her age. Wavy is so starved for love and affection that her heart opens to Kellen, and Kellen cannot help but enter into the relationship she offers him.

It is a strange sensation to be rooting for a little girl and the much older thug who goes beyond rescuer to become her lover. But amid all the very ugly things in the world these two inhabit (very, very ugly), their connection is the only wonderful thing they have. If you fell for the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast (and who didn't?) you will fall for this very offbeat pair. So I found myself wishing the couple happiness through their many trials. The course of true love never runs easy, not in fairy tales and certainly not in the very real, very grim world the two lovers inhabit.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is the ultimate noir fairy tale, with Wavy as the wounded beauty, small and blonde, abused in body and spirit, and Kellen as the beast, big and hulking but just as broken. The evil father, wasted mother, and other family members, all have their roles to play - and they all impart truths that move the book along at a fast and mesmerizing pace.

I read this stunning book in one go. It was well worth giving up a night of sleep to become part of this strange tale of love unfolding in an ugly world. Because in the end, no matter just how wrong Wavy and Kellen are for each other in so many ways, in the most important way, they are just so right.

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Member ratings (21,047)

  • Ashleigh B.

    Lake St Louis, MO

    Couldnt put this one down! It definitely isnt your typical love story, but you couldnt help root for them. Loved that the story is told from multiple POVs and it being based in the 70s-80s! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Ashley H.

    Schertz, TX

    Nothing is ever black and white. Every story has more than two sides. Children are sometimes forced into adulthood at a young age and should have a voice in what happens to them. I ❤️❤️❤️ this book.

  • Jenni U.

    Johnston, IA

    I couldn’t put this book down. I found myself holding my breath, waiting for Wavy & Kellen to get in trouble but cheering for them to make it work no matter how wrong it seemed! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Zackery S.

    Mount Vernon, WA

    Could not put this one down. At first I was scetched about the age difference in the characters. But once I got to the end, this book is amazing. I recommended it to a friend and he is reading it now.Greatbook

  • Gaby A.

    Cicero, IL

    I’m glad I picked this amazing story. I love reading about dysfunctional families - makes me feel more “normal.” Wavy is such an interesting and beautiful character I couldn’t stop, read it in 2 days.

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