All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

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“The girl had a hundred yard stare like Irv had when he came back from the war.”

Make no mistake, some homes are as dangerous as a war zone. This novel is like gut rot but maybe for the heart- poisonous and painful. Some will be shocked by the sexual nature, the demons Wavy’s living with- nothing more horrifying than her own parents dark shadowy selves. Many novels about Meth addiction and dealers doesn’t get inside the heart and minds of the traumatized children. Wavy is a weed, weeds are strong and not easy to kill. This isn’t just about children growing up around ‘adult situations’. The things Wavy deals with would frighten the average person, her parents being the sort of folks intelligent people are wary of and keep a vast distance from. The most awful truth is, that though this is fiction, there are such children. While Wavy has a grandmother, family that loves her- taking her and her brother in aren’t a simple solution. Why doesn’t this child eat? Why does she barely speak? Why does she sneak out?  Her cousin is enthralled by her behavior, her fire is enticing, her life alien to the safe suburban one she leads. The secrets she shares, the things she has witnessed and done…

Then the love story that is born of disaster and a motorcycle that will either melt your heart or sour it. There is going to be a lot of talk about this and varied opinions. Mothers will feel conflicted about Wavy’s gentle giant, teens may swoon but everyone will be reading a different book here. It is wrong, it is beautiful, there are buckets of story in this novel. People are messed up on drugs, life, sex- there are misfits and broken families. Children are overexposed and forced into growing up with trembling brutality. Wavy is a girl of few words but deep actions, she is love starved, hungry for touch and care but unable to accept it when it’s given freely. There is so much to say about this story and the turns it takes, the horrors, the ‘love’ and yet discussing it would be ruinous to the experience for those that haven’t read it yet.

Gorgeous and ugly at once, there is so much ugliness and heart at the same time! This story was a snakebite for me. You feel Wavy’s love story and at the same time something smells rotten. The ending, I have never been so confused by the emotions a story churned in me. It’s a ‘what in the hell just happened’ to ‘wow, that was heavy’. I am uncomfortable and mad, this poor child, this brilliant child…  These fictional stories are a reminder of the underbelly that exists right beside safe little families. There are children that see too much, and it changes the direction of their lives- only a fool thinks otherwise. We are not free of the stains of horrible experiences anymore than someone praised and loved are free from the stamp of adoration. Wonderfully brutal and I cannot wait to see the conflicting reviews. That ‘love story’ is going to set tongues wagging about what is right, what is wrong. Oh my! What a year of reading.

With that aside, I mentioned earlier in an update to my reading status on goodreads that it was a punch in the gut- and I wasn’t lying. Reading about a child scavenging for food because that is the norm just does something to my emotional state. I dare you not to feel affected.

 

St. Matin’s Press

Publication Date: August 9 2016

 

 

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