I was supposed to do a lot of things yesterday. House cleaning. Laundry. Run errands. Instead, I spent most of the day immersed in this book and only managed to go grocery shopping so we wouldn't starve this week.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood was one of my Book of the Month Club choices. It was actually a pick from last month (but you can choose old picks). I didn't get it the first time around because I wasn't sure I wanted to read the subject matter. But then I saw a number of people (whose reading tastes generally align with mine) recommending it, so this month I grabbed it.
I'm glad I did. This was one compelling read.
First, a warning. This is not an easy book to read. It doesn't hold back and is very dark. However, at its heart, there's also love. Love that will leave you with uncomfortable mixed feelings most likely. But isn't that the best part of a well-written book? It leaves you thinking. It leaves you questioning your own feelings about the story and the characters.
I won't go too deep into the plot, but I know most of you who are reading this are romance readers, so if you want to know if this is a happy ending or not, scroll to the bottom of the post to see under the spoiler heading. If you don't want to be spoiled. Avoid that. :)
I'm still processing my own feelings about this book, but I think my biggest takeaway is that we can't ever know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. We make judgments. We know what's right unequivocally. Or we think we do. But is it always so cut and dried? I don't know. Hence the uncomfortable feelings.
It made me think about my days as a social worker. I did therapy with middle school aged children from very difficult backgrounds. Some had seen and been through so much, I could barely wrap my head around it. So reading about Wavy, I couldn't help but think, I met girls like her. Thirteen year olds who'd walk in my office with the eyes of a hardened adult. Ones who would often get involved with boys much older than them. They'd grown up too fast because they'd had no other choice. It was do that or not survive. Did they make bad choices? Often. Could I blame them? No. Would I have reported Wavy and Kellen to the police if she'd walked in my office? Absolutely. I did that very thing a number of times in that job. And I'd still do it every single time without pause if I were still doing that job.
So if I were in this book, I'd be one of the antagonists (like her aunt.) But the story made me root for Wavy and Kellen. So...yeah. It's a book that effs with your head. That's one reason I read dark books. I don't mind a book messing with my lines. Fiction gives a space for that. But I also know that's not for everyone. So, you've been warned. : )
But if you decide to pick it up, you're going to get one hell of a read.
Here's the blurb:
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.
Grab a copy or you can still get it through Book of the Month Club (sign up with my link and code REFER 50 and get 50% off a three month membership.) I have to say the hardback version is lovely. Gorgeous cover and that nice soft feel to the jacket. (Yes, I pet my books. Don't you? ;) )
Has anyone else read this? What books have you read that screwed with your head or made you question your feelings?
This book has a positive ending. You have to go through hell to get to it though. :)