Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Byrn Greenwood

Title: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Byrn Greenwood
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Pages: 352
Genres: Literary Fiction, Romance

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
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.
Love it or hate it, I have never felt so morally conflicted about a book in my life. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things follows five year old Wavy over a span of around fifteen years. The plot is centred around an unconventional romance that starts to blossom between Wavy and her father's associate, Kellen. The main issue with this is that Wavy is around thirteen when the relationship starts to become inappropriate whilst Kellen is in his twenties and should know better. Would anyone believe me if I said their relationship felt very natural and sweet? It sounds insane but the way it is written is just phenomenal.

The main theme running central to this story is of love and its many forms. This book really challenged my biases and perceptions of those kinds of relationships to the point where it physically made me uncomfortable. I think it's amazing when a book does that, and it's one of the many reasons why I love to read. Despite that, the tone of the book is quite dark as substance abuse, domestic abuse, and neglect feature prominently throughout. The author really brought each character to life and they felt like real people in real situations. I could not stop reading.

I really felt sympathetic towards Wavy and Kellen's situation which was not something I expected from reading the synopsis beforehand. There are plenty of different character POVs of the situation but I honestly don't feel like Kellen should be put into the same category as Humbert Humbert of Lolita for example. He just loves Wavy and she just happened to be young, I feel like he would have loved her no matter her age. Could he have done things a little differently? Yes. Obviously it was fundamentally wrong. So you see, the resulting cognitive dissonance is painful.

Haunting and provocative, definitely recommended for readers looking for a deeply unconventional love story.

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