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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

4.7 29
by Bryn Greenwood
 

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New York Times bestseller

USA Today bestseller

Book of the Month Club 2016 Book of the Year

Second Place Goodreads Best Fiction of 2016

31 Books Bringing the Heat this Summer —Bustle

Top Ten Hottest Reads of 2016 —New York Daily News

Best Books of 2016 —St. Louis

Overview

New York Times bestseller

USA Today bestseller

Book of the Month Club 2016 Book of the Year

Second Place Goodreads Best Fiction of 2016

31 Books Bringing the Heat this Summer —Bustle

Top Ten Hottest Reads of 2016 —New York Daily News

Best Books of 2016 —St. Louis Post Dispatch

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/13/2016
Greenwood’s strong debut, set throughout the United States, is about a young girl’s triumph over the sordid life she might have led as the daughter of drug addicts, one of whom is a meth dealer. The author skillfully creates widely varied and original voices, as the story unfolds from a variety of characters’ viewpoints, whether it’s Wavy, the main character, whom we see growing from a six-year-old to a young adult; Wavy’s grandmother, who takes care of her for a time before succumbing to cancer; or the loving Kellen, whose street smarts makes up for his lack of education. The relationship at the heart of the novel is between Wavy and Kellen, a drug runner for her father who changes her life. In Wavy, Greenwood has fashioned a resilient girl who doesn’t speak much, hiding a fierce intelligence and strong will that enables her to take care of herself and her infant brother despite her parents’ drug habits. This is a memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love under the most improbable circumstances. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"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

“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 ofMonkey 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

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-05-04
Greenwood's powerful, provocative debut chronicles a desolate childhood and a discomfiting love affair.Wavy (short for Wavonna) is only 5 when we meet her in 1975, but she's already been thoroughly traumatized by her meth-addicted mother, Val, whose stint in jail sends the girl to her Aunt Brenda's house in Tulsa. Wavy barely talks and doesn't eat—or rather, her cousins discover one night, eats out of the garbage pail when everyone else is asleep. We learn after Val is paroled and reclaims Wavy that Scary Mama has been known to stick fingers down her daughter's throat to remove "dirty" food and then wash out Wavy's mouth with Listerine. Her drug-dealing husband, Liam, mostly keeps to his own quarters on their ranch compound; his open infidelities send Val into fits of immobilizing depression and catatonia-inducing substance abuse, while Wavy struggles to take care of baby brother Donal and keep attending school. Only Kellen, a low-level enforcer for Liam who is also the survivor of childhood neglect, shows her any kindness or care. As the years go by in Greenwood's episodic tale, we see this affection-starved girl and damaged man fall in love. Wavy is only 13 when their relationship turns sexual, and when Aunt Brenda finds out, she labels Kellen a rapist and works to keep them apart. The multiple narrators don't mince words as they describe a thoroughly sordid milieu and various squalid events that climax in a violent denouement that threatens to separate Wavy and Kellen permanently. Greenwood limns her characters with matter-of-fact empathy, inviting us to respect the resourcefulness and resilience with which Wavy surmounts her dangerously disordered circumstances to craft a life and a love. It's no storybook romance, but the novel closes on a note of hard-won serenity, with people who deserve a second chance gathered together. Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250074133
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/09/2016
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
7,575
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A Novel


By Bryn Greenwood

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Bryn Greenwood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-07413-3


CHAPTER 1

PART ONE


1


AMY


March 1975


My mother always started the story by saying, "Well, she was born in the backseat of a stranger's car," as though that explained why Wavy wasn't normal. It seemed to me that could happen to anybody. Maybe on the way to the hospital, your parents' respectable, middle-class car broke down. That was not what happened to Wavy. She was born in the backseat of a stranger's car, because Uncle Liam and Aunt Val were homeless, driving through Texas when their old beat-up van broke down. Nine months pregnant, Aunt Val hitchhiked to the next town for help. If you ever consider playing Good Samaritan to a pregnant woman, think about cleaning that up.

I learned all this from eavesdropping on Mom's Tuesday night book club. Sometimes they talked about books, but mostly they gossiped. That was where Mom first started polishing The Tragic and Edifying Story of Wavonna Quinn.

After Wavy was born, Mom didn't hear from Aunt Val for almost five years. The first news she had was that Uncle Liam had been arrested for dealing drugs, and Aunt Val needed money. Then Aunt Val got arrested for something Mom wouldn't say, leaving no one to take care of Wavy.

The day after that second phone call, Grandma visited, and argued with Mom behind closed doors about "reaping what you sow," and "blood is thicker than water." Grandma, my soft-in-the-middle, cookie-baking grandma shouted, "She's family! If you won't take her, I will!"

We took her. Mom promised Leslie and me new toys, but we were so excited about meeting our cousin that we didn't care. Wavy was our only cousin, because according to Mom, Dad's brother was gay. Leslie and I, at nine and going on seven, made up stories about Wavy that were pure Grimm's Fairy Tales. Starved, kept in a cage, living in the wilderness with wolves.

The day Wavy arrived, the weather suited our gloomy theories: dark and rainy, with gusting wind. Of course, it would have been more fitting if Wavy had arrived in a black limo or a horse-drawn carriage instead of the social worker's beige sedan.

Sue Enaldo was a plump woman in a blue pantsuit, but for me she was Santa Claus, bringing me a marvelous present. Before Sue could get a rain bonnet over her elaborate Dolly Parton hair, Wavy hopped out of the backseat, dangling a plastic grocery bag in one hand. She was delicate, and soaked to the skin by the time she reached the front door.

Leslie's face fell when she saw our cousin, but I wasn't disappointed. As soon as my mother opened the door, Wavy stepped in and surveyed her new home with a bottomless look I would grow to love, but that would eventually drive my mother to despair. Her eyes were dark, but not brown. Grey? Green? Blue? You couldn't really tell. Just dark and full of a long view of the world. Her eyelashes and eyebrows were translucent, to match her hair. Silver-blond, it clung to her head and ran trails of water off her shoulders onto the entryway tile.

"Wavonna, sweetie, I'm your Aunt Brenda." It was a mother I didn't recognize, the way she pitched her voice high, falsely bright, and gave Sue an anxious look. "Is she — is she okay?" "As okay as she ever is. She didn't say a word to me on the drive over. The foster family she's been with this week, they said she was quiet as a mouse."

"Has she been to see a doctor?"

"She went, but she wouldn't let anyone touch her. She kicked two nurses and punched the doctor."

My mother's eyes went wide and Leslie took a step back.

"Okay, then," Mom cooed. "Do you have some clothes in your bag there, Wavonna? Let's get you into something dry, okay?"

She must have expected Wavy to fight her, but when she reached for the grocery bag, Wavy let it go. My mother opened it and frowned at the contents.

"Where are the rest of her clothes?"

"That's it," Sue said. "She came to us wearing a man's undershirt. Those are the clothes the foster family got together for her."

"I'm sure Amy has something she can wear for now."

Putting her hands on her knees to get to Wavy's height, Sue said, "Wavonna, I'm going to go now and you're going to stay here with your aunt. Do you understand?"

The grown-ups talked to Wavy like she was a little kid, but at five she made a very adult gesture: a curt nod to dismiss Sue.

After Sue was gone, the four of us stood in the entryway, staring. Mom, Leslie, and I at Wavy. Wavy seemed to have x-ray vision, staring through the living room wall at the Venus oil lamp that hung on the other side. How did she know it was there to stare at it?

"Well, why don't we go upstairs and get Wavonna into some dry clothes," Mom said.

In my room, Wavy stood between the two beds, dripping onto the rug. Mom looked anxious, but I was thrilled to have my real live cousin in my room.

"Here, Amy, why don't you help her unpack while I get a towel?" Mom retreated, leaving us alone.

I opened an empty drawer and "unpacked" Wavy's bag: another hand-me-down sundress as threadbare as the one she had on, two pairs of panties, an undershirt, a flannel nightgown, and a new baby doll, smelling of fresh plastic.

"This will be your dresser." I didn't want to sound like my mother, like an adult. I wanted Wavy to like me. After I put the clothes in the drawer, I held the doll out to her. "Is this your baby?"

She looked at me, really looked at me, and that's how I knew her eyes weren't brown. Her head moved left, right, back to center. No.

"Well, we can put it in here, to keep it safe," I said.

Mom returned with a towel, which she tried to put over Wavy's dripping hair. Before Mom could touch her, Wavy snatched the towel away and dried her own hair.

After a moment of stunned silence, Mom said, "Let's find something for you to wear."

She laid out panties and an undershirt on the bed. Without any embarrassment, Wavy peeled off the sundress and dropped it on the floor, before stepping out of her tennis shoes. She was almost as bony as the kids in the UNICEF ads, her ribs sticking out through the dry cotton undershirt she put on.

I offered her my favorite corduroy pants and plaid shirt, but she shook her head. With her thumb and first finger she plucked at an invisible skirt. Mom looked helpless.

"She wants her dress," I said.

"She needs something warmer."

So I went into my closet and found a Christmas party dress I hated the one time I wore it. Navy velvet with a lace collar, it was too big for Wavy, but it suited her. With her hair already drying to blond wisps, she looked like she had stepped out of an old photograph.

At lunch, Wavy sat at the table, but didn't eat anything. Same thing at dinner and breakfast the next morning.

"Please, sweetie, just try a bite." Mom looked exhausted and she'd only been a stay-at-home aunt one day.

I love my mother. She was a good mother. She did arts and crafts projects with us, baked with us, and took us to the park. Until we were practically teenagers, Mom tucked us into bed every night. Whatever Wavy needed, it wasn't that.

The first night, Mom tucked Wavy and me into bed, me with my Winnie the Pooh, and Wavy with the baby doll she said wasn't hers. As soon as Mom left the room, Wavy threw off her covers and I heard the thud of the doll hitting the floor. If something else had happened to make the room go dark — if Leslie had played a prank or the bulb had burned out — I would have screamed for Mom, but when Wavy turned off my nightlight, I shivered under my covers, afraid but excited. After she lay down again, she spoke. Her voice was small and quiet, just what you would expect from a tiny, blond elf-child.

"Cassiopeia. Cepheus. Ursa Minor. Cygnus. Perseus. Orion."

Since she had finally spoken, I grew brave enough to ask, "What does it mean?"

"Names of stars."

Until then I hadn't known the stars had names. Arm extended, finger pointing, Wavy traced out shapes above her head, as though she were guiding the movements of the stars. A conductor directing a symphony.

The next night, Wavy smiled at me as Mom crawled around looking for the unwanted doll. A minute after we were tucked in, the baby was again among the dust bunnies under the bed. Eventually that became the doll's name: Dust Bunny. If Mom failed to look for the doll at bedtime, I said, "Oh, no. I think Dust Bunny is missing again," to make Wavy smile.

While I had a growing friendship with Wavy, my mother had only anxiety.

In the first month, Mom took Wavy to the doctor three times, because she wasn't eating. The first time, a nurse tried to put a thermometer in Wavy's mouth. It didn't end well. The other two times, Wavy mounted the scale and the doctor pronounced, "She's underweight, but not dangerously so. She must be eating something."

Dad said the same thing and he had evidence to back it up. One night, he came home from work after we were all in bed, and woke us up shouting, "Oh, goddamnit! What are you doing? What are you doing?"

Wavy wasn't in her bed, so I ran downstairs alone. I found Dad in the kitchen with the trash can lid in one hand and his briefcase in the other. I'd never been in the kitchen that late. In the day it was a warm, sunny place, but behind Dad, the basement door stood open and dark, like the mouth of a monster.

"What's the matter, Daddy?"

"It's nothing. Go back to bed." He put the lid on the trash and laid his briefcase on the table.

"What's going on, Bill?" Mom came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder.

"She was eating out of the trash."

"What? Amy, what are you —"

"Not Amy. Your niece."

Mom didn't take Wavy to the doctor again to complain about her not eating.

After failing to solve that crisis, Mom became obsessed with sewing for Wavy. The dresses you could buy hung on her like sacks and were too frilly, which Wavy hated. The first day she wore my Christmas party dress, she tore the lace collar off.

So Mom sewed dozens of dresses that Wavy unraveled, plucking at the seams until a thread came loose. From there she could unravel a dress in less than a week. Mom rehemmed her dresses each time they came through the wash. It slowed the unraveling down, which was a practical solution, but Mom didn't want a solution, she wanted a reason.

One of the book club ladies said, "Does she have toileting problems?"

Mom frowned, shook her head. "No, there's no trouble like that. She'll be six in July."

Wavy and I eavesdropped from the other side of the kitchen door. Her games all involved sneaking around and finding people's secrets, like the cigarettes my father hid in a coffee can in the garage.

"I wonder if she's acting out over some inappropriate contact," the book club lady said.

"You think she might have been molested?" another lady said, sounding shocked but excited.

That conversation led to Wavy's first visit to a therapist. She stopped unraveling her dresses and Mom went around looking triumphant. To Dad, she said: "I think we've had a breakthrough."

Then she discovered the curtains in the guest bedroom, which were what Wavy took to unraveling when she stopped doing it to her clothes.

Mom and Dad yelled at each other while Wavy stared through them.

"Why does there have to be something wrong with her?" Dad said. "Maybe she's just weird. God knows your sister's weird enough. I don't have time for you to get hysterical over everything she does. We have to wrap up the books on the fiscal year-end."

"I'm worried about her. Is that so horrible of me? She never talks. What's going to happen to her?" "She does too talk," Leslie said. "I hear her talking at night to Amy."

Mom slowly turned to all of us, narrowed in on me. "Is that true? Does she talk to you?"

She stared into my eyes, pleading with me. I nodded.

"Well, what does she talk about?"

"It's a secret."

"There can't be secrets, Amy. If she tells you something important, you have to tell me. You want to help Vonnie, don't you?" Mom got down on her knees in front of me and I saw how it was. She would make me tell my secret. I started to cry, knowing I would tell and it wouldn't help Mom or Wavy. It would just rob me of something precious.

Wavy saved me. With her hand over her mouth, she said, "I don't want to talk about it."

My mother's eyes bulged. "I — I — I." She couldn't get a word out and even Dad looked stunned. The silent ghost girl could speak in complete sentences.

"I want you to go back to the therapist," Mom said.

"No."

Things might have gotten better after that, if it hadn't been for the other secret between Wavy and me. She liked to sneak out of the house at night, and I went with her. Breezing down the stairs on bare feet, we eased open the kitchen door and walked around the neighborhood.

Sometimes we just looked. Other times, we took things. The night of Wavy's sixth birthday, when she had left her cake uneaten, she jimmied open Mrs. NiBlack's screen door. We crept across the kitchen to the refrigerator, where Wavy pressed her finger to the lever to keep the light inside off. On the bottom shelf sat a half-eaten lemon pie, which we carried away. Crouched under the weeping willow in the Goerings' backyard, Wavy tore out a chunk of pie with her bare hand and gave me the plate. She went around the corner of the garden shed and when she came back, her piece of lemon pie was gone. No, she wasn't starving.

Some nights we gathered things. A wine bottle scavenged from the gutter. A woman's high-heeled shoe from the median of the highway, where we weren't supposed to go. An old hand mixer abandoned outside the Methodist Church's back door. We collected our treasures into a metal box stolen from the neighbor's garage, and secreted it along our back fence, behind the lilac bushes.

When autumn came, the lilacs lost their leaves, and Dad found the box of treasure, including Mrs. NiBlack's heavy glass pie plate, her name written on the bottom of it on a square of masking tape. Mom returned it to Mrs. NiBlack, who must have told her how the pie plate went missing: stolen out of her fridge on a hot July night, a trail of small dirty footprints left on the linoleum.

Or maybe something else made Mom suspicious.

As the weather got colder, I wanted to stay at home in bed, but when Wavy got up and dressed, I did, too. If I didn't go, she would go alone. Half of my fear was that something would happen to her. The other half was a fear that she would have adventures without me.

So I went with her, shivering against the cold, while my heart pounded with excitement. At the library, Wavy went up on tiptoe to reach her spindly arm into the book return. In the day, my mother would have driven us to the library to check out books, but stealing books was sweeter.

Wavy smiled and withdrew her arm to reveal treasure. The book was thin enough to pass through the return the wrong way, but it wasn't a kiddy book. Salome, the spine said. We leaned our heads together to consider the strangeness of an adult book with pictures. Odd pictures. The cover was worn and layered with clear tape to protect it, and the pages were heavy. It felt special.

As I reached to turn the page, a pair of headlights fell on us where we crouched beside the book deposit. Wavy darted away, but I froze when my father yelled, "Amy!" Like in a fairy tale, where knowing someone's name gives you power, my father was able to capture me.

My mother got out of the car and ran across the library parking lot. She looked so ferocious, loping toward me in her nightgown and coat, that I expected a blow. Punishment. Instead, she jerked me into her arms and pressed me to her chest.

After that, I had to tell everything. About the late night wandering. Not the stars. That was still my secret. Mom screamed and Dad yelled.

"I know you mean well, Brenda. You want to help her. I get that. But when her behavior starts endangering our children, it's time to choose. We can't keep her. She's out of control."

The police came to make a report, to get a picture, to put out a bulletin. The neighbors turned out to look for Wavy, but at dawn she returned on her own.

I woke to more yelling and screaming. That afternoon, Grandma came to get Wavy.

"It's a horrible idea. A stupid idea," Mom said. I marveled that she could talk to Grandma like that. It didn't seem possible to get away with saying something like that to your mother. "You can't keep an eye on her all the time. You can't stay up all night."

"What would be the point? I suppose she will do a little wandering. From what I remember, you and Val did some wandering when you were kids."

"That was different. We were teenagers and it was a safer time."

"Pfft," Grandma said.

"Think of your health, Helen," Dad said.

"You haven't been as strong since the chemo, Mom."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Copyright © 2016 Bryn Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Bryn Greenwood is a fourth-generation Kansan, and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She earned an MA from Kansas State University and continues to work in academia as an administrator. She is the author of Last Will and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. 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.

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This is a book well worth reading. Heartbreaking as well as hopeful, at times difficult to read but a story you must follow to the end.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I would recommened this book to everyone. It was dark and beautiful.
Myndia More than 1 year ago
AMAZING. Controversial, provocative, daring, and so f’ing good. Trying to sort my feelings about this book and my brain is about to explode. Because I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to feel disturbed or offended or have some sort of righteous indignation. But I don’t. And I’d be happy to delve into the reasons why, but then I’d be writing an essay not a review. So, for now, the book. As childhoods go, Wavy’s is pretty messed up. A mentally ill mother who can’t stay on her meds, a father who runs a huge meth-lab, sleeps with a bunch of different women and lives separately in a trailer on the property, and basically no one is looking out for Wavy and her little brother Donal. Her mother’s sister steps in occasionally, but her husband doesn’t want the responsibility, or for the mess that is Wavy’s life to negatively impact their children. So Wavy is on her own to care for herself and her brother. Until Kellen. When Wavy is 8, Kellen – who works for her father – has a motorcycle accident, and she saves him. And from that point on, he makes sure she and Donal are taken care of. They become best friends, and as the years pass, they become more. Their relationship is complicated and leads to all sorts of tragedy for both of them. But they continue to save each other, despite all obstacles. The author does a beautiful job, genius really, of telling the story in a way that shows you, really shows you, all of the complexities of the situation. As a reader, your rational brain is screaming that this relationship feels creepy, that they are too close for people with such a wide age gap (I believe he is 21 and she is 8 when the accident occurs), that you can see where this is going and it doesn’t seem right. But I think one of the major points of this book is that things aren’t always black and white, and frankly, our view of the world is limited by our own experiences and the degree to which we subscribe to social rules. Look, it’s an uncomfortable and weird subject, and I get why some find it repugnant and disturbing. As someone who was once a 15 year old dating a 21 year old (we were together for 3 years, I might add), maybe my perspective is a little more open than the average person. And while I didn’t have Wavy’s brand of messed up childhood, I didn’t grow up in some middle class neighborhood with two happily married parents and money to spare either. Whether we like it or not, our life experience colors our perceptions of right and wrong. And as a society, we feel like we have to draw a line somewhere (we do). But that line has to be flexible. Intent matters. Circumstances matter. The individuals involved matter. People are complex so situations involving people are complex. 13 year olds are people. Very, very complex people. So, I get the controversy, and some people won’t be swayed, and that’s fine. But I loved Wavy and Kellen, and I was cheering for them. Sorry not sorry. For me, reading serves many purposes, two of which are a) finding some of myself inside the story (oh, I SO did!) and b) pushing me to think beyond my own perspective and experience (check!). This book was a slam dunk for me. Top 5 for the second half of the year, at least top 10 for 2016. An astonishing, heart-wrenching read. I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Beautifully written. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous 4 months ago
When starting the first part of the book I was hooked. I felt completely engolfed into this story especially with all the twist and turns. The relationship between Wavy and Kellen was absolutely beautiful to me.
Anonymous 11 months ago
A truly ugly and wonderful book. I was drawn in from the very beginning. I loved Wavy and marveled at her survival in her dysfunctional life. The time spent with her grandmother was too short but saved her as she then believed in herself and others. Keelan was a sweetheart and the love of her life in the horrible life that was hers. Loved this book. Very different.
Anonymous 4 days ago
Amazing
Anonymous 8 days ago
This book is beautifully written, has intense & realistic characters, with a constant underlining of love, but at the same time, it is disturbing and twisted, which is why it is brilliant! It evokes every human emotion...
Caroles_Random_Life 3 months ago
I am so disappointed! I was so excited to read this book and I didn't love it nearly as much I thought I would. I have seen so many rave reviews for this book and I just knew that I would absolutely love it too. I actually pulled it out on New Year's Eve because this was the book that I wanted to start the new year reading because I was sure it would be a 5 star book. There were some things that I did like about the book but it ended up being just an okay read for me. This is a happy little inappropriate meth lab romance. The meth lab isn't the controversial part of the story. I said it is inappropriate because of the fact that the romance is between a child and an adult. I knew that going in but I just couldn't get over this issue while I was reading. This book made me uncomfortable as I am sure it made many other readers. I just couldn't get past this issue. This book made me sad more than anything. I felt bad for Wavy. The things that she must have went through before this book starts just breaks my heart. She has so many issues at the beginning of the book and she will still be dealing with these issues for years to come. She doesn't want to be touched, she doesn't talk, and she will not eat in front of anyone. I really wish her grandmother would have been able to care for her for a longer time. The people who should be taking care of Wavy simply don't do their jobs for the most part. Her mother lays in bed most days and her father is off dealing with his drug business. She takes care of her brother and herself. When Kellen crashes his motorcycle in front of Wavy's house, an unlikely friendship is formed. Kellen really did do a lot to take care of Wavy and her brother. I liked him a lot of first but when it crossed the line into a romantic relationship it just didn't work for me. I was really excited to read this book because I knew it was different. I like different. I am open to reading about things that are not the social norm. I think my main hang up with this story is that Wavy was a child during most of it. This was a book that I found rather easy to set aside. Some sections seemed to hold my attention more than others but in the end it is a pretty forgettable story for me.
nfmgirl 3 months ago
We are introduced to Wavy as a five-year-old who has landed in her Aunt Brenda's house after both of her parents have been arrested. (Wavy's mother Val is a drug addict who cares about little in life, and her father Liam is a neglectful meth manufacturer and drug runner.) At first glance, Wavy is an odd duck, rarely speaking a word, refusing to eat in front of anyone, and shunning any physical contact. She appears to "have a screw loose", but given time and patience a person will find that there is a method to her madness, and brilliance behind her baffling behavior. She's mature beyond her years, and possibly even a genius, and there is deep emotion bottled up under that still surface. Things don't go well at Aunt Brenda's, whose rigid personality doesn't mesh with this odd duck who does nothing normally. With Brenda at her wit's end, it is Wavy's grandmother who steps up and takes in Wavy. She is everything Brenda is not, accepting Wavy for who she is, reasoning out what will work with her wacky behavior. Things are good, but they can't last. Wavy's mother gets released from jail, and it is back to an invisible life with a mentally unstable mother. Once her father is released from prison, it isn't long before Wavy finds herself in the position of big sister to new baby Donal, and before long she is more of a mother to Donal than their own mother. Wavy meets 24-year-old Kellen (her father's co-worker) on a day she thinks is her 8th birthday, but doesn't know for sure as she doesn't have a current calendar. Kellen wrecks his motorcycle after being startled by the beautiful little girl walking out of a field in the night, looking like an angel. A relationship quickly builds between them, as he becomes her protector and friend, and she becomes something of a caretaker of him, like a wife or mother. Through the years, Wavy and Kellen are constants in one another's life-- two lost ships gravitating toward one another, one finding stability in the other. Wavy teaches Kellen about astronomy, pointing out and reciting the names of the constellations in the sky, and Kellen becomes her home. They become family. When Wavy is in high school, we learn where the title for the book comes from, but uncertainty and loss continues throughout Wavy's childhood, and she eventually finds herself lost without Kellen. This is a unique novel that you hesitate to even pick up, as the subject matter seems so distasteful, with what seems to be a predatory man and an impressionable young girl. Interestingly enough, the tables are sort of flipped and Wavy is the predator and Kellen the impressionable one. She is an old soul, and while Kellen grounds her, I think that Wavy expands him and his world with her big intellect and powerful love. As I began the story, I was intrigued to see whether the author could accomplish making the male character likable, and their relationship acceptable. I thought she did a great job of walking a line, taking you to the edge of "unacceptable" and only making you "uncomfortable". I must agree that I think that is one of the things that made me uncomfortable with this story-- it was how natural their relationship felt, how "right" it seemed, and then the mental reminder of how young this girl was and how inappropriate their relationship would be under any other circumstance. But in this circumstance, in the desolation of her heart and the emotional abandonment and abuse, it felt "right". I became grateful that Kellen was t
Anonymous 6 months ago
Could not put this book down. Loved the characters.
Crazy_Beautiful_Reviews 7 months ago
This book is a difficult read. Wavy, although a different type of child, will grab your heart. Even though her life is anything but simple, she comes through as a very strong child. At first reading this book was hard. Watching what Wavy and her brother had to live through. Then it turned hard for an entirely different reason. It was watching Wavy fall in love with a man. Someone she shouldn't have, but she did. The hard part was knowing it was wrong, but seeing it from Wavy's perspective. She saw it as love. She saw Kellen as someone who would protect her and love her despite her faults. He was the one person that understood her and could relate to her. While their story is wrong, its also beautiful in its own sad way.
Anonymous 7 months ago
S-Lewis 8 months ago
I just finished reading Bryn Greenwood's new novel All The Ugly And Wonderful Things. It may be the best book I've read so far this year. Great storytelling in a brilliant, insightful, unfolding of character and plot that examines the taboos we all carry. A haunting and unlikely love story.
MorrisMorgan 10 months ago
“All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” was not a book that I actually enjoyed, but I had to give it four stars for the beauty of the writing and the solid plot. This book is gritty and difficult. Nothing in it is sugar-coated. The character development is well-done and does not waver in continuity as the characters age. There is an extremely uncomfortable age difference in it that deserves a warning. It was a tough read all the way around. If you’re looking for a light read, “All of the Ugly and Wonderful Things” is not for you. If you’re looking for a book with teeth and can handle the subject matter, I wholeheartedly recommend it. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
SarahJD82 More than 1 year ago
It has been well over a month since I read this book and I still think about with startling frequency. Technically it is a taboo romance. Very taboo. Very unsettling for a good number of people. It didn’t feel that way as I was reading, though. It was strangely beautiful and completely engrossing. Consent has always and will always be a tricky subject to tackle; whether it’s in real life or in a novel. People will always argue that a person has to be a certain age to know the implications of their decisions. This book serves as an example that age isn’t always the only thing to consider in matters of consent. Maturity can vary greatly between two people. Some people are far older than their years and some are far younger than their age might suggest. Bryn Greenwood did an excellent job at illustrating this with the characters of Wavy and Kellen. Wavy was so much older than she should have been, she was an adult when she was only five years-old; by the time she was 13 she’d lived through more people three times her age. Wavy dealt with traumas no person should have ever endured, raised her baby brother, and overcame a life that should have destroyed her; all before high school. Age was definitely not the way to determine Wavy’s ability to make decisions. Kellen was the perfect dichotomy to Wavy’s world-weary soul. Though he was older and very much an adult, had performed horrific acts against other people, he still had an innocence, a naiveté that Wavy didn’t possess. His soul-deep innocence made him the only person able to help Wavy with the struggles she faced every moment of her life. The characters in this book existed in a world so different than the one most of us live in, there is no way to apply our own experiences them. Every moment of their lives were filled with upheaval and strife, not one second of their experiences were what most people would consider ‘normal’, and in that stark difference of experience we can not possibly judge the things they did, the ways they dealt with their relationship. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things had several different points of view. Some were only a chapter long and others we returned to time and again. This gave a unique perspective on each of the main characters in the book. Getting to see Kellen and Wavy through so many different people’s perspectives gave a kind of understanding to their characters not often afforded to book characters. This made the experience completely unique and marvelous. Bryn Greenwood blew me away with All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Her writing was engrossing; from the first chapter of the book I could feel the grittiness of Wavy’s world, her shame seemed to jump through the words and fill me in a way I am not used to experiencing. She made me hate and love, fear and hope, in ways, I am not able to experience often while reading. I can only hope that any further works Ms. Greenwood publishes are as powerful and visceral as this book was for me.
BookBellas More than 1 year ago
“I love you all the way.” This is an EPIC story that was simply un-putdownable, filled with characters that I will never, ever forget. The writing is outstanding! Nothing I can say in a review will do any justice to this gem but I will try. Certainly not a story for everyone, the book is at its heart a love story and what can happen when two human beings really, truly, deeply love each other and care for each other. Wavy and Kellen meet when she is just a young girl, but she is wise beyond her years, having suffered horrible emotional and physical abuse. Wavy has the misfortune to be the daughter of a meth dealer and a mentally-unstable mother. She learns young how to take care of herself and fly under the radar. There are lots of adults who drift in and out of her life and it is heartbreaking to see how misguided almost all of them are. From a well-meaning aunt to teachers who should know better, everyone basically fails Wavy and her little brother. Except for Kellen. "He smelled good. Sweat and motorcycle and wintergreen. No stinking weed smoke. No perfume. No sadness. He smelled like love" He is the one constant in her grim life, the one person she can always count on, no matter what. He provides her with shelter, clothing, all the basic needs that a parent should, plus love. I never viewed their relationship as odd, mostly because of the insightful points of view of the main characters. But for sure some readers will be uncomfortable with their age difference. The author’s use of different narrators is brilliant. Especially sympathetic is Wavy’s cousin, who is in awe of Wavy’s wild ways. Wavy lives on and off with her aunt and cousins, but they really never know the depth and depravity of Wavy’s unstable home life. "Wavy in her black leather boots didn't fit in the catalog. She tore open the catalog and made surprising things happen. Like Ken in a dress." This book is the best book I’ve read all year. I could not put it down. My favorite parts of the book are when the author Bryn Greenwood describes how painful it is for Wavy to speak. Words are almost real, tangible things for Wavy, that can be felt and tasted. Brilliant. This story spans many years and is filled with some of the most unforgettable characters that I have ever read. I absolutely loved how whip-smart Wavy was, and how she silently observed and took in everything around her. She is obsessed with the constellations and her sweet spot is gazing at the stars at night with her beloved Kellen. “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.” Wavy never lost hope and pushed forward though life no matter how dire her circumstances were. My heart also broke for Kellen, a giant of a man who always treated Wavy with love and tenderness. They had a bond that was unbreakable. I can’t think of anything more to say about this stunning book other than to please read it! It will change your life. "I wanted a fairy tale ending for Wavy, because if she could find happiness, there would be hope for me, too.”
Elektra23 More than 1 year ago
Wow! This book left me speechless. I decided to read it based on all of the great reviews it’s received. I knew going into it that the story was a little disturbing. It is, don’t get me wrong, but the way Bryn Greenwood makes you love and care for Wavy and Kellen, it almost makes the subject matter acceptable. The story is told from several different perspectives, which I liked. It added to the depth of the characters and allowed the story to be told from different angles. We are introduced to Wavy from the very beginning, and instantly learn about her troubled, if not disturbing, childhood. I was immediately intrigued by this little girl, and wondered how someone so young could be strong. She let’s her guard down with the one person she could trust and truly love, as taboo as it may be. However, he also grows to love and trust her…unlike anyone he has ever done so before. My emotions ran deep when I was reading this book. I found myself laughing and even crying. I got so angry at one point I yelled out ‘no!’, only to be jerked back into reality. The rawness and brutal honesty in the writing is what truly makes it a great read. When I finished, it took me a day to process what I had just read, as I could not stop thinking about it. It is one of those books that stay with you, for a long time afterwards. While the subject matter may not be for everyone, if you approach the story with an open mind and take it for what it is, a girl overcoming great obstacles and finally learning to love, I think you will enjoy the book as much as I did. https://knovelcafe.wordpress.com/
Erika4J More than 1 year ago
It's been two weeks since I finished this book and wrote the following review. I still can't get this book out of my head. I miss the characters. I miss the book. I miss everything about it. This book is that good! Do not let the subject matter dissuade you from reading this book. Stay open minded. I promise you that you won't be disappointed! Amazing book. Just amazing. I agree that's it's not for everyone. But if you can be open minded and read it from Wavy's perspective. From the perspective of what it would be like growing up like her, it's easier to get. Yes, I had a hard time with parts of their relationship when she was young. But I couldn't stop reading. I had to know where the story was going and I was so caught up in the story. It's a deep and moving book. Not one you'll read and forget. The writing is wonderful. The storyline is so unique and different than anything I've ever read. Sorry this review is all over the place and does not do this novel justice. But I couldn't just rate it 5 stars and leave it. I had to say something. I literally felt every emotion reading this. Sadness, anger, shock, humor, humiliation, vindication, joy, and more. It's a very different book, like nothing you've ever read, but if you give it a chance and read it with an open heart and an open mind, you will be forever moved and changed by this book!
JennyVee More than 1 year ago
I am a mother and a fiercely loving and protective one at that. This leads me to be of the “mama bear” variety. Do not read this book with mama bear goggles on or any similar glasses! My children will never be in a situation anywhere near as dire as what Wavy or Kellen experience. I know this for a fact because my children are surrounded by people who love them unconditionally, not because they are obligated to but because they want to. Wavy and Kellan have been surrounded by people who look down on them like trash as if they are something to be disposed of. Unless you come from a similar situation, please do not go in with predisposed judgments. Wavy and Kellen’s story is born out of a place of neglect, sorrow, hatred, and so many other things many of us will never have to see outside of our imaginations or the news. Please give this book a chance. Give Wavy and Kellen a chance. There are so many ugly and wonderful things. This book does not cover the easiest subject matter. In fact, there are several tough subject matters hinted at in the synopsis. Life for the two protagonists is hard, and that’s putting it lightly. Both Wavy and Kellen were born into a life of Hell on Earth. They don’t know love, they don’t know what it’s like to be wanted or cared for (without someone being forced to care for them), and they don’t know what a real family is like. Until their paths cross one day. Their real family is not with their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or friends; it’s with each other and with Wavy’s little brother, Donal. That is where they finally find unconditional love for the first time in their lives. This story is told from multiple perspectives but never any that I could easily relate to (such as Wavy’s aunt who tries to protect Wavy the way she sees fit). I could put myself in their shoes but I would most likely never find myself in their situation or one remotely similar. We hear from Wavy, Kellen, Donal, Wavy’s cousin, Wavy’s grandmother, Wavy’s college roommate, Kellen’s boss, etc.; so many perspectives that allow the reader to see not only inside the minds of Wavy and Kellen, to see where they are mentally, emotionally, and intellectually, but from characters that allow us to view their behaviors and their relationship from perspectives that are most likely more varying from the average reader. Disclaimer: I realize I’m generalizing; there are many people who will be able to relate to various aspects, so please don’t think I’m ignoring that possibility. My intentions here are for those who are sitting on the fence wondering if they should read this or not because the subject matter makes them uncomfortable due to it being hard to relate to. This book is worth stepping out of your comfort zone. I could say so much more but that would be obnoxious and most likely contain spoilers. Just know that this book is something different, something special, and worth the time. I will read this book over and over for years to come. The characters and story have burrowed themselves deep into me and have found permanent residence in my bookworm heart. I highly recommend you open your mind and heart and read this book and then come find me and tell me your thoughts, good or bad.
Amy-MWLadiesWhoLit More than 1 year ago
WOW! This is a deep read. Wavy and Kellen are an unlikely, and illegal couple. It doesn't start out that way, but it develops over the course of time of them taking care of each other. This book will make you question the things you already know and force you to take on the character's perspectives. I look forward to Greenwood's next book!
Dianne57 More than 1 year ago
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck -then it is most likely is a duck. In my opinion this book is *only* about violence and pedophilia no matter how wonderfully it was written. Yes Kellen and Wavy waited, yes the book was ultimately about love - but still, 13 years old? And it WAS a wonderfully written book, and it even made me cry in parts -so it did hit me emotionally. I realize that this book took me out of my comfort zone just because it was about people and types of people I would never know. (drug dealers, runners, thugs and drug manufacturers) The look into their lives was quite interesting. Lastly, I read to take myself out of my real life. I read for entertainment and I found this book fascinating but not entertaining. It was a depressing read and I'm so sorry that the publisher chose not to explain what this book really was about -if they had I would never have chosen it. *ARC supplied by publisher.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
Wow, this is a book that will stay with me for a while, a long while. It was so well written and I loved the leading characters. While it does involve sexual relations with a minor and an adult, which does bother me. By the time this happens, I have been with the minor through at least six years of her life. She has seen most things adults haven't even seen. She has gone through things most adults haven't imagined. Nothing sexual, just a lot of verbal abuse that it's a wonder this girl isn't off in some corner somewhere shooting up every bit of heroin she can get her hands on. This is a love story. A story about a child and a protector who grow very close. A protector who makes sure she goes to school, who pays her tuition, who shows up for her teacher conferences, someone who cares. And to top it off, he's not even family. He has been the best thing for this child and her real family tries to keep him away from her. It's a great story and a sad story. I absolutely loved it and could not put it down. I read this on my birthday and could not think of a better present. I definitely recommend this book. Thanks St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for the free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things,  Bryn Greenwood Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  Literary Fiction. Well, one thing puzzles me – this is described as a Debut book, and yet goodreads lists two earlier ones by Bryn?? Never-the-less its an incredible, thought provoking read, and surprisingly a beautiful romance IMO despite the circumstances.  I’ve seen comparisons to Tampa by Alissa Nutting, which I also enjoyed – as a story that made me think, made me look at the way society treats people, how a clever groomer manipulates children and even the story, to get the results they want. That definitely wasn’t romance for me, was very clearly abuse, and yet this one was a real love story for me despite the circumstances. Two very unique and individual novels but with similar themes, that play out so differently.  In Tampa the female teacher, married and in her twenties, grooms adolescent boys for her sexual benefit and once she’s done she drops them. She cares nothing for their feelings, its purely self gratification.  In contrast here Kellen is much older than Wavy but mentally young for his years, and Wavy is beyond mature from the harsh upbringing she’s had. It still doesn't make things right, but its written in such a way that despite their ages they’re both such incredible characters that you can feel love, and actually sympathise with them. I really wanted things to work for them. The only part I wasn’t really happy with was the ending, it just felt rushed after the rest of the book, and I felt I’d somehow missed a huge chunk of time with Wavy and Kellen, months were condensed into a couple of pages, where the events were very important to the story IMO and needed more.   So Wavy, she’s very young when we first meet her, drug addict, cuckoo mother, meth cooking, addicted, dealer father. Mum is obsessed with germs in food for Wavy and throws her meals in the bin, telling her about putting dirty things in her mouth, veers from “nice mama” to “nasty mama” in the blink of an eye, spends most of her time spaced out, and its left to Wavy to bring up her little brother. Her dad Liam doesn’t even live with them, but at the meth factory ranch down the road with various girlfriends, though is still married to her mum Val and visits for sex and to throw his weight around. Its a harsh upbringing, one where food is scarce, laundry is never done, and mostly there are strung out, addicted people round the home. One where seeing syringes and sex is all just everyday life for Wavy.   She reacts by not eating when people can see, scavenging rubbish bins later when no-one is around, or stealing food from neighbours in the early hours. She learns that one of the ways its best to be with Val is to say nothing so she doesn’t speak, hates being touched as she doesn’t know whether to expect a hug or a hit. You just feel so much for her. In the early part of the book she’s living temporarily with Val’s sister and her family, but her issues cause so many problems there, and then when she returns she has a younger brother Donal, who she tries to look after. At eight she’s doing the housework, cooking and cleaning for Donal, and getting herself off to school. That doesn’t go well either – she’s odd and kids are cruel. Then she meets Kellen, one of her dad’s go-to guys, a biker, gruff, scruffy and though he’s ( I think) around 22 he’s so much younger in many ways. He was brought up on the Indian reservation, and his fa
pet1210 More than 1 year ago
Stunning writing and compulsive reading! I loved this book! If you've seen previous mentions of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you'll know it is considered controversial due to its contentious theme of a relationship between a young, underage girl and a considerably older man. Wavonna's story spans 15 years from March 1975 to December 1990. Born to self-absorbed parents, this little girl has been given a tough start. Her dad, Liam, is an aggressive meth-dealer with his own little harem. Her mother, Val, is an addict with mental health issues who has some very strong views on germs and men. Indoctrinated by her mother, Wavonna has eating issues, doesn't like to be touched, and hardly talks. She's learned from an early age that "nothing belongs to you". She naturally has to grow up a lot faster than other kids and is basically raising her brother, Donal, who is seven years younger. She is intelligent, resourceful and the definition of resilient. One day, when she is 7 or 8, she meets Kellen, one of the rough, motorbike riding guys who work for Liam. Kellen is a bit overweight, is seen by others as a bit slow, had a pretty crappy start in life himself and is known to have had suicidal tendencies. He is in his early twenties. From that first meeting, Kellen is there for Wavy and Donal. He makes sure they have food, takes Wavy to school and generally looks after them. He becomes the one stable, reliable person in their lives. As Wavy grows into a teenager, their relationship develops into something else. For the girl who believes "nothing belongs to you", Kellen becomes "mine". In Wavy's words she "liked how we were different, but the same". Then a tragic event occurs that leaves Wavy separated from Kellen and Donal, i.e. her family. Bryn Greenwood has created a unique story of two lost souls finding and losing each other and has managed to portray it in a non-sentimental, non-judgmental way. The author simply shows you and leaves you to make up your own mind. It's almost like reading a documentary where several witnesses of the event are giving us their views on it. Several is an understatement. If I counted correctly, there are 16 narrators! How Bryn Greenwood managed to plot this story and keep it flowing so naturally is beyond me. The writing is absolutely terrific. It was impossible to read this and not go through a range of emotions. Apart from Wavy's parents who were rather unlikable for obvious reasons, the only other person that made me truly mad was Wavy's aunt whose name I can't even remember. I just wanted to keep shaking the foolish woman. The author did a great job of portraying several side characters who followed our natural behavior of 'I'd rather not get involved'. The subject matter is obviously pretty grim, there is violence, there are scenes of a sexual nature, the language, though totally appropriate for the setting, again, might make some readers uncomfortable. Personally, I wasn't as shocked as I was expecting to be after reading some reviews beforehand. To me, this story made complete sense because the author showed you why people were behaving in certain ways, and characters and their actions were credible. I put down a new release I was desperate to read and kept reading this to find out how it would end. Extremely gripping and powerfully poignant!! This book will be one of my favorites for this year. Thank you so much St. Martin's Press and Bryn Greenwood for my ARC via NetGalley!