All the Ugly and Wonderful Things - Bryn Greenwood
January 8, 2021
Goodreads Book Blurb:
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. Kellen may not be innocent, but he is the fixed point in Wavy and Donal’s chaotic universe. Instead of playing it safe, Wavy has to learn to fight for Kellen, for her brother, and for herself.
I cannot believe how many good reviews this book has gotten considering it’s a sickening love letter to pedophiles. If you can convince the abused child that she’s in love with you, anything you do is okay, because it’s now a love story about star-crossed lovers forced apart by society and pesky laws. I should’ve stopped reading when the 20+-year-old man fell in love with the 8-year-old at first sight. I think I kept reading in hopes of a different ending.
It feels almost as if the author stayed vague about Kellen’s age throughout the book to try and blur the line between romance and pedophilia. But even doing that, the way Wavy’s body is described throughout the entire book – prepubescent and underdeveloped – is just creepy. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her eating disorder and speech disorder are described as her ‘quirks’ rather than truly terrible issues which should be addressed. I don’t care that when she chooses to speak she’s fluent and can be understood. She is so terrified of speaking, of making noise, even at the end of the book her speech is described as difficult, halting her breathing, and sporadic. Add on the physical and emotional abuse from her parents and this girl should have been taken away and helped so many times.
Wavy’s aunt is portrayed as evil, as the villain, because she acts like a reasonable human being should when they discover an adult man in a relationship with a teenage, emotionally damaged, and clearly mentally ill, girl. Although to be fair, she had more than enough information years before she finally acted, when it was even worse and Wavy wasn’t even a teenager.
This is not a love story. It’s creepy and disturbing and so many passages made my skin crawl. Every possible trigger warning under the sun should be applied to this book. I feel like I’ve just read some extreme right-wing propaganda supporting pedophiles. Would not recommend, to anyone.