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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: A Novel Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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"If you're looking for a dangerous, shocking, and unexpectedly touching story, this is it...This is a book that will shake you to the core." ―Bustle "31 Books Bringing the Heat this Summer"
"Captivating and smartly written from the first page, Greenwood's work is instantly absorbing. Pithy characters saunter, charge or stumble into each scene via raw, gripping narrative. Greenwood slow-drips descriptions, never giving away everything at once. Rather, she tells her story as if lifting a cloth thread by thread, revealing heartbreaking landscapes and riveting dialogue in perfect timing. This book won't pull at heartstrings but instead yank out the entire organ and shake it about before lodging it back in an unfamiliar position." ―Christina Ledbetter, The Associated Press
"This book destroyed me. I have never read anything like it. 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. I don't think I'll ever get these characters off my mind." ―Emily May, #1 Worldwide most popular reviewer, Goodreads
"The title says it all. You will hold your little heart in your hands and keep blowing on it to make sure it's alive." ―The Top Ten Hottest Reads of 2016, New York Daily News
"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. It's so, so impressive. Vibrant. Heartbreaking. Sympathetic. Her writing is astonishing." ―Karen, #1 US most popular reviewer, Goodreads
"The stirring Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, so freakishly good and dangerous that it should come with a warning label... the writing is direct and muscular, a snake with all the slithery danger of a coiled rattler on a hot rock. VERDICT Greenwood (from Kansas, daughter of a “mostly reformed drug dealer”) astounds in creating a world where assorted murderers, felons, and thieves are sympathetic. Alternating narrators à la The Sound and the Fury create a dynamic where Lolita meets a dissonance of values/taboo romance like East of Eden, Damage, or The Little Mermaid." ―Library Journal
"Bryn Greenwood has handed readers a strange - but strangely grabbing - tale." ―Harry Levins, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Best of 2016
"Greenwood's haunting novel...is a story that will stay with readers long after the book is finished." ―Lisa McLendon, The Wichita Eagle
"[A] powerful, provocative debut...intelligent, honest, and unsentimental." ―Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)
"An emotionally resonant novel with an unlikely cast of characters you won’t soon forget. Bryn Greenwood’s unique voice and her understanding of human nature offer an amazing tale of family, loss, and love that’s as unpredictable and inspiring as love itself." ―Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader
"Written in lyrical and searingly honest prose, Bryn Greenwood tells a powerful story of love and resilience against the bleakest of backdrops. Like the best fiction, this is a novel that means to disturb and challenge as it forces us to look with compassion on every last one of its flawed, memorable characters. I was captivated from the first page to the last." ―Patry Francis, three time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and author of The Orphans of Race Point
"Gritty and dark and tough and uncomfortable, but it's brilliantly constructed...Greenwood develops an incredible and resilient character in Wavy. It's an outstanding debut novel and I am itching for Greenwood's next book." ―Kelly Jensen, Book Riot
"Greenwood is a gifted writer, and Wavy's story will stick to your bones long after you put this book down. These characters will fast become friends, and you will find yourself reluctant to leave their ugly and wonderful little world." ―Madeline Lemieux, Creative Loafing Charlotte
"Incredible book alert...Another true page turner as Greenwood takes her reader on an emotional bungee jump that requires you to decide for yourself what you can and can not accept given the grimmest of circumstances." (5 out of 5 stars) ―Erin Woodward, The Girly Book Club
"All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is just that: ugly and wonderful all at the same time. An epic love story...This book will be the birth of a vibrant debate about the law and societal norms as your book club members will truly be divided by the actions of our male lead. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for this one!" ―InStyle UK
“Achingly raw and beautifully written, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is both a hypnotic coming-of-age story and a heartbreaking tragedy. Greenwood’s emotional prose and her well-drawn characters immediately drew me in and kept me captivated. I’m still thinking about Wavy, and her ugly and wonderful world, long after I’ve turned the last page.” ―Jillian Cantor, author of Margot and The Hours Count
"Bryn Greenwood is so good it hurts. Her writing is lean, precise, elegant and dripping with the telling detail-the understated bit of dialogue that reveals everything." ―Robert Ferrigno, New York Times bestselling author of Monkey Boyz, Horse Latitudes, the Prayer for the Assassin trilogy and other novels
"The author skillfully creates widely varied and original voices... a memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love under the most improbable circumstances." ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Bryn Greenwood is a fourth-generation Kansan, and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She earned an MA in Creative Writing and continues to work in academia as an administrator. She is the author of the novels All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Last Will, and Lie Lay Lain. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Chiron Review, Kansas Quarterly, Karamu, and The Battered Suitcase. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
Top customer reviews
Because of my own experiences, I cannot condone the apparent underlying message in this book -- that love is love, and who are we to judge? That what happened between the book's "heroine," Wavy, and Kellen -- the older biker who acts as a parental figure to her -- is justified.
The book follows the story of their gradual building of a relationship. Wavy is 8 when she first meets Kellen, who is a friend/"co-worker" of her father in his drug business. At first his actions are very innocent. Kellen will bring Wavy groceries and make sure she gets to school. But this quickly develops into more -- on both sides, and it gets graphic and uncomfortable to read. I am one to press on through controversy and discomfort, however, because it's my personal belief that we don't have to agree with a book or its content to read it and enjoy it. And I did like this book. In a strange way, I did like it, but I honestly think it was mostly because of my own questionable upbringing. It almost felt like going back in time, in a way.
*********** SPOILER ALERT *******************
I waited for the last two months for this book to come out. I was practically counting down the days. I was hoping for something more mild, because reviewers who got advance copies kept saying things like, "You'll root for their relationship...he comes across as a pedophile, but he's not!"
Sadly, that's not the case. In the beginning, yes, I did root for the relationship I knew they were going to have, because in the beginning it *was* purely platonic, and he was the only one who seemed to care about Wavy other than her aunt and cousins.
But ... and this is why I don't understand the reviewers who keep saying "who are we to judge"...NOTHING excuses a 25-year-old man from fondling a 13-year-old girl and allowing her to masturbate him MULTIPLE TIMES. Nothing excuses a man of that age from sticking his fingers inside her and breaking her hymen. Nothing excuses him from talking about her "little tit," beginning when she was around 9 or 10. I'm sorry, but there is no explanation in the world for a grown man to do any of those things. I expected that this book would focus only on their friendship but that he would hopefully TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY restrain himself from any sexual thoughts about her. I did expect him to have thoughts about her, but I did not expect them to be acted on. THAT would have possibly made me like him. Understand.
It's an odd thing to say, but I almost feel like the cheerleaders for their relationship were groomed themselves ... just like Wavy was. Kellen may not have realized that's what he was doing in the beginning, but he certainly did begin to see it at some point. And he just kept on going. His internal dialogue wrestling with his feelings and trying to justify them was an attempt by the author to make Wavy into some ethereal character who wasn't limited by her age. It didn't work for me. All I saw is something I witnessed a lot of as a kid -- children growing up too fast because they're thrust into adult situations with no one giving a crap about them. Kellen took advantage of Wavy's neglect. Of course she's going to latch onto the person who seems to care. And I do believe he did care. I just think he also has unnatural sexual urges to mess around with children, as well. Which is nothing to turn an eye about.
The author attempts to manipulate the reader into rooting for their relationship. She attempts to win the reader's approval of their happy ending. It almost worked on me. I found myself weirdly being satisfied with the ending despite my disgust for their sexual relationship. No excuse for some of the things they did. None! Anyway, I believe I was almost manipulated simply because I wanted Wavy to get HER happy ending, and unfortunately her happy ending was with Kellen, because she was groomed from such a delicate age that she probably would have killed herself if they didn't end up together. But ultimately, this book would have been so much better, and would have gotten 5 stars (but probably 4 for the insignificant POVs scattered along the way) if Wavy came to realize what had happened to her -- that she did love Kellen, but that it was because she had been so abused as a child and that he was also one of her abusers. I wanted Wavy to rise from the ashes of the abomination that was her childhood and flash forward to ten or twenty years later where she has come to build a somewhat stable life for herself.
It scares me how many people can comment about this book and say, "This made me uncomfortable because I have young kids, but after reading this I'm like who am I to judge love?" Really? Well, how about you just offer up your kid to any registered offender who will take your kid to and from school and buy them groceries. Given the author saying she is the daughter of a "mostly reformed" drug dealer, I wonder if this book is more of an autobiography. Is there someone who was like Kellen that the author had a relationship with as a young girl? Does she wish it could have blossomed into some lasting, accepted relationship? It sure made me wonder...
But, by the halfway point, Greenwood completely brought me around again. She sold me on her creepy storyline (to the tune of 4 stars instead of the 2.5/3 stars I was considering)! I’ve read many books that started off well only to fall off a cliff later on, but it’s rare that I find one that does the opposite (Fates and Furies is the last one I can think of). Greenwood wrote in a way that demanded my sympathy for and understanding of these characters, despite my initial misgivings. Plus, the story’s action picked up considerably in the second half. Because All the Ugly and Wonderful Things addresses a controversial topic likely to spark strong feelings one way or another, it would make an excellent book club selection.
Check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves, for more reviews.
However, it left me in a bit of awe. I loved the occasional different perspectives from characters other than Kellen and Wavy. The story features the weight of other's opinions and judgement so it was nice to see the perspective of others as opposed to the author forcing us to vilify them.
Read this if you are open-minded and willing to experience a story about all the ugly and wonderful things in life... :)
Most recent customer reviews
This is the first book I have read by Bryn Greenwood, and I will definitely be getting her others.Read more