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Quick take

Love a good antihero? This unlikely love story stars two outsiders striving for more than the cards they were dealt.

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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