Blair's Reviews > All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
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Jun 19, 2016

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bookshelves: netgalley, 2016-release, past-and-present, first-novels, read-on-kindle

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is a story about the relationship that develops between Wavy (short for Wavonna), the daughter of a meth dealer and a meth addict, and Jesse Joe Kellen, a motorbike-riding loner who works for her father. When they meet, Wavy is eight; Kellen is around 20. They 'fall in love' while Wavy is still a child. Although the story spans 12 years, and I should probably point out that nothing untoward happens when Wavy is pre-pubescent, there is much that is troubling and uncomfortable about this story.

I am going to use a phrase I don't like for the first time, because it suits this book so perfectly: your mileage may vary. I found this book more disturbing than Lolita, Tampa, American Psycho, The End of Alice – you get the picture; more disturbing than many works of fiction with plainly controversial or outrageous subject matter (all of which I loved, incidentally). It's not an exaggeration to say it made me nauseous. I also felt it was one of the most manipulative books I have ever read, which stands in direct contrast to what many fellow ARC-reviewers seem to have loved about it. Discovering that it's at least partly autobiographical made me feel even more conflicted about the type of story it's trying to be.

It's worth mentioning that it's beautifully written, compelling, and there's no doubting it got under my skin and made me feel something, more than most fiction. The rating is a compromise (I wouldn't say Goodreads' 'liked it' definition of the three-star rating is accurate), and although I could probably write reams about it, I'd rather not think about this story again, or get dragged into debates about it, and nor do I want to fall into the trap of performing armchair psychology on the author. So this is as much of a review as I'm going to write.

I received an advance review copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Andi (A Literal Hottie) I thought it was so creative and moving, and yes sick and disturbing also. I love how our opinions vary! That's what makes this world so interesting. Thanks for sharing other sick and twisted novels in your review, I will look them up.


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