All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: Bryn Greenwood

Rating: 5 / 5

Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is the provocative and wholly moving story of the grim life and particularly unlikely love of a young girl whose parents are meth dealers.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood

Wavy is five when she’s dropped off at her aunt’s house after her drug-addicted mother loses custody of her. It is immediately evident that her childhood has, thus far, been very trying. She won’t speak, won’t eat, and sneaks out of the house every night to wander the neighborhood.

Wavy is eventually released back into the custody of her – supposedly – clean mother, who is, at best, neglectful. She is utterly alone, except for her new baby brother, and must care for herself in every way. One night, at eight years old, Wavy meets Kellen – a twenty-something ex-con who works for her meth-cooking father. Kellen immediately understands the circumstances around Wavy and her family and that she needs taking care of, and so he fills that position.

Kellen is the light of Wavy’s life – he grocery shops for her, takes her to school, and is the only person in the world who prioritizes her. As Wavy grows, their relationship morphs into something that, from the outside looking in, seems abominable. Through the tender and tragic moments that ensue, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things pushes our understandings of right and wrong, moral and immoral, and good and bad to the absolute breaking point.

Content Warning

Please take caution while reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Abuse
  • Child abuse / pedophilia
  • Eating disorders
  • Violence
  • Death / dying
  • Blood
  • Ableism

My Thoughts

I am absolutely blown away by All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – it has proven to be one of the most powerful and fantastic novels I’ve read to date. The subject matter that Greenwood delves into is shocking and deeply polarizing, but my god – the way she writes the story is transcendent.

I love absolutely everything about this book, but I’m going to try to give specifics. First, the character development is unmatched. Not only does she develop the special, complicated character of Wavy in such a graceful way, but she also seamlessly weaves her relationship with Kellen into the mix. They are so deeply connected that Wavy couldn’t be Wavy without Kellen, and vice versa.

The way Greenwood tackles such immensely sensitive topics as drugs, abuse, and taboo relationships is something special. She gently leads readers to the emotions she intends for them – so subtly that I was shocked when I realized how I felt about Wavy and Kellen’s relationship. Greenwood flips morality on its head and forces her readers to confront the reality that life is nowhere near black and white, and that individual circumstances can drastically alter our perceptions of right and wrong.

I. Love. This. Book. I devoured it so quickly because I couldn’t bring myself to break away from the immersive, confusing, and tender story at my fingertips. If you decide to pick it up, knowing the triggers awaiting you, I urge you to keep an open mind and to let yourself be led by the masterful writing and relationship development. I think you’ll be surprised by how you feel, and I can’t wait to discuss it with you!


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!

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