Review of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Hey word nerds! So I read this book in maybe 24 hours. I felt like I didn’t want to do any fluffy introductions for this book because that is not what this book is about. I have been stewing on what I wanted to say ever since I finished reading it yesterday afternoon. Two people that I totally love and adore told me that this book was a must read and dozens of others were raving about it on social media. *I feel like in all fairness some parts may feel spoilerish so proceed with caution, there was no way to say what I wanted to say without giving certain information.

I volunteer in my local community and work with foster kids aged 6-12. This book nearly broke my heart. This is the kind of stuff that actually happens to kids every single day. Reading was so hard for me in some parts because I know these stories and I know the faces behind them. These are kids growing up too hard and too fast. I am not going to lie to you guys, I almost put this book down.

When Kellen was introduced I got a sick feeling in my stomach. If I saw this story playing out in real life I would probably react very similar to the aunt in this book and I can’t say that I feel ashamed of that. A child is a child and no matter what I will always hold firm that a 24-year-old having a relationship with a 13-year-old is not okay, regardless of the circumstances. There I have said it. Yep. The unpopular opinion in my circle. I understand that she needed family and she needed someone to keep her safe, which Kellen did. That portion of their relationship I can support and respect. He got her to school, made sure she had shoes, and watched out for her and her brother. When he lets his feelings for her cross over that line I am out. I understand that she needs someone, but she is a child who did not grow up with a good example of a healthy relationship and she definitely had to grow up way too fast.

I am not saying that the book wasn’t powerful. It was. And it was so well written. And honestly, I appreciated the dirty honest truth that this book provided. Those kids fell through the cracks of a faulty system and were left to fend for themselves. Wavy fought to take care of her brother and keep him safe. That is a reality for far too many kids. I understand that Kellen and Wavy had a relationship built on safety and understanding, and I even understand all of the fighting she did for him when she was an adult. He was her safe place and her home. I just cannot wrap my head around their relationship start and make myself be okay with it.

Now for the shocking part. I give this book 5 stars. Yep, I know. It probably didn’t seem like it would go that way but the writing was amazing and the story was so honest and full. The author didn’t hide the dark dirty parts just to sell a book. I appreciate real books that show the reader the worst parts of the world and how people grow from that. I don’t have to agree with it to know that in the end, Kellen was what Wavy needed and he needed her just as much.


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