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Summary

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 stargazing 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.

©2016 Bryn Greenwood (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Jorjeana Marie was meant to narrate this gripping story, which takes place in meth country in the Midwest. Neglected, abused 8-year-old Wavy Quinn is stargazing when she unintentionally causes Jesse Joe Kellen, an ex-con employee of her drug-dealing dad, to crash his motorcycle. Marie grippingly portrays this troubled pair who befriend each other after Wavy saves his life. Things come to a head when their relationship is misunderstood. In addition to deftly presenting the lead characters, Marie perfectly renders Wavy's adorable little brother and beloved grandmother. Some chapters are written from other characters' viewpoints over a period of 15 years, and Marie presents those flawlessly as well. Listeners will be eager to hear what happens next, always rooting for Wavy and Kellen." ( AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Truly Addictive

Whoa! I don't think I've ever been as affected by a book or ever thought about a book constantly like I did with this. Contrary to many views I did not struggle with the content at all (I can understand why maybe some people would), I was constantly on tender-hooks waiting for something bad to happen, expecting things to get out of hand at any turn. So many emotions, so much happening. Told in multiple POVs, the story is gritty, tense and beautifully written. The story follows the obsessive relationship between Wavy (age 8) and Kellen who is about 12 years her senior. Wavy's family life leaves a lot to be desired, her parents are abusive and neglectful. Wavy doesn't speak and doesn't like being touched by anyone, until Kellen. He is her protector, her friend, her confidant and as the years go by, their feelings become more....... One of my favourite reads of the year. I loved it.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Lo
  • 30-11-16

Favourite book of the year so far!!

I loved this story because of the discomfort I felt while reading not despite of..

This author gave us a story that is original not only in it's content but in the way it's written as well.

5 people found this helpful

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Amazing handling of tricky subjects

This was very well narrated. The tale was so beautifully spun that one felt you had to cover your ears but you wanted to peep anyway. A true Romeo and Juliet tale but with a load more difficulty and brutality. Some very tricky subjects in here extremely well handled. This makes one question everything about everything! I can definitely recommend this amazing book and consider it to be one of the best I have read this year.

3 people found this helpful

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This book...

Taboo but gosh this story had to be written I read it a few years ago and got the audio to listen as reading isn’t so easy with a little one always wanting my attention. The feels all came flooding back. Not to everyone’s taste but gosh it sticks with you

2 people found this helpful

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Incredible

This book is amazing. It's one that will stay with me for a long time. It's like a modern day Romeo and Juliet story, only with paedophiles and drugs. I'm going to search for other books by Bryn Greenwood, I hope there are more on Audible.

2 people found this helpful

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heartbreaking, uncomfortable, beautiful

This was an excellent portrayal of an incredible, novel book. It is unusual in subject matter, insightful and moving. The performance was excellent and the narrator captured the characters without feeling fakey.
Stayed with me and was compulsive listening.

2 people found this helpful

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Ugly content but wonderfully written.

I have had this book on my wish list for sometime but kept putting off due to the content which I thought would not make for a good book.

So pleased I did spend the credit and I am mad for not buying it before now.

The content is rather disturbing, however it is not glossed over or made sensational.

The characters who you know you are not going to like start to grow on you, and you begin to understand them and their circumstances.

Narration is good but a little poor on differentiating between the different characters and male and female voices.


I would highly recommend this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Really compulsive listen

I loved this! Loved this narration, loved how it really brought you in to the action. Very difficult topic explored sensitively! Lots of discussion points, kind of wish I was in a book club!

1 person found this helpful

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Creeped me out. Dislikable characters

This was well written but depressing and made my skin crawl in parts. I don't understand how a grown man can fall in love with an 8 year old girl and start to get physically involved with her at 13?? It was put to the reader as an almost Romeo and Juliet scenario, well, they were no star-crossed lovers to me. He should've acted appropriately if he truly cared about her. I felt like the author was trying to make me warm to Kellen, but I just couldn't get on board with his actions and was willing him to go to prison or die. And although I felt sympathy for Wavy as she was neglected by her mum, she is immensely irritating. Refuses to talk and runs around like a flipping animal and being horrible and dismissive of everyone - she drove me crazy. I spent a lot of time willing someone to give her a good slap. I didn't particularly like any of the characters except maybe Amy - Wavy's cousin.

6 people found this helpful

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A great listen

The worst thing about this book was that it ended. I loved the story although, as other readers have said, it was very uncomfortable subject and difficult to feel ok about a few of the scenes described in detail, it. It is a love story. It challenges modern ideas about love, relationships and appropriateness in a sensitive and thought provoking way, the two main characters being likeable and three dimensional. I expect the subject matter and content will push buttons for many people but the writing, descriptions and story telling ability of the author are exceptional and I look forward to reading more books by her.

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Profile Image for Sherwyn
  • Sherwyn
  • 23-09-17

Life Can Be Ugly

This book isn’t about your morality or your righteous indignations. It is not a glorification of pedophilia but a deep and unsettling dive into perspective (however being labeled as a romance is questionable and note that was done by the readers and not by the author). This book is about circumstance, situations and socialization. Fiction especially contemporary fiction usually has some base in reality, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is an examination of a trajectory of events in socialization and circumstances that shape mentalities, I do not feel like these characters are broken, these characters are coping with the hands they have been dealt and when you look at this objectively and not emotionally you can see the trappings of marginalized people, of children left to the devices of abusive and drug addicted parents.
It is well written, a play on opposites, a look at mental illness, dysfunction, heartbreak, abuse, it is about relationships.

137 people found this helpful

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  • Michele McKeon
  • 22-01-19

Troubled - child rape dressed up as romantic

First the performance of this book is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Hands down. She was spectacular and I want her to read ever book to me. I heard each character every time! Fantastic.

I liked the story. It made me really want to keep reading. The characters were well developed and interesting.

Intentionally, I waited a over a week to post my review because I wanted to make sure I was clear in my analysis.

All of this said I had a huge reaction to the romanticism of the relationship between Wavy and Kellen. I actually fell into it for a bit until I remembered she was a little girl. This is a trap to create romance around a predator, to change the discussion that it was at the child’s urging or with her consent. Children can’t give consent. Ever. So what this was one long rape fantasy tied up in a happy ending so we all felt less gross about how much we liked the book. The one person protecting the child from those preying on her was made to be the bad guy.

I am truly disturbed about the glowing reactions to this book about and the description of the ‘relationship’ of these too people. Many people will fall for this aspect ignoring the violation of this child. The women in my book club had a hard time understanding why this was rape. I had to explain over and over. This type of romanticism of rape is damaging as a whole and does a grave disservice to victims and makes it much harder for people to understand predators.
Really disappointing.

65 people found this helpful

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  • Michelle
  • 24-08-17

Hit me right in the gut

I've never been inclined to write a review before. This story hit me hard. I'm a survivor of sexual child abuse. I've been a foster parent. I truly know all the ugly and wonderful things that can go on in the life of a child that has seen more tragedy than many adults could ever imagine. You find a way to survive and you make your life work. Wavy and Kellan found a way to make something beautiful out of the tragedy of their everyday existence. Am I condoning sexual relations with someone that is underage? Absolutely not. However, as someone that has been a foster parent of a very troubled teenage girl and someone that has been a troubled teenager, I know these things happen, whether they're right or wrong. I cringed during this story. Hoping they would stay together and not go too far until she was of age. I cried at the hands that life dealt them. I saw my foster daughter in this story and it made me want to pull her closer to me and tell her how much I love her and how sorry I am for all the ugly things she saw as a child and I pray that now she has something wonderful to make up for her past.

55 people found this helpful

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  • Misty Walker
  • 19-09-18

Just don’t

This book should come with a warning and I believe it doesn’t because no one would read it. The summary and critics review is deceiving as to who the relationship is between. Spoiler alert: it’s a child and man! Who roots for that as the critics claim !? I do believe these things can happen due to dysfunctional families , but it doesn’t make it right.
I read part of the book and I thought it was leading towards a crush on the girls part, until he crawled through her window one night. I decided to look more into the reviews and I am glad I did to save myself from the disgust of what happens next. I am sure this book could have been much better if the authors character was 18 rather than 8.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Marion Gunter
  • 15-03-19

Disgusting

Could have been a good audiobook but the main characters were a child and her 26 year old molester....first time I called to get my credit refunded. A pedofiles dream. Disturbing.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Michelle prime
  • 11-08-17

Beautiful novel full of ugly things.

I have over 400 books in my Audible library and have never written a review. I loved this book, but probably wouldn't write a review here either except I want to add my opinion to those slamming this book for the content, and the author for writing it. First of all, I thank God we live in a country where we can still write a novel about things that happen in real life and not be persecuted. Many of you want to persecute the author while applauding the entertainment you got from it. Secondly, while there were parts that made me uncomfortable, I appreciated how far the author went to show human feelings and frailty. It's this kind of writing that makes people stop and think and examine how different life can be from one person to the next. Stop your judgment and just think. Maybe your life had

81 people found this helpful

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  • jksullycats
  • 27-12-16

So many 'hard to listen to' moments

This is difficult to review. I wasn't initially captivated by the provided synopsis, but I got the book because so may reviewers had written to just get it. I read several reviews, and I can go back and check again, but I don't remember any that warned of the extremely graphic and vulgar language used to describe sexual acts. Put that little cherry on top that many are spoken by a girl no older than 14 years, who is experiencing them with a 24 year old man. I'm not sure I can express myself in a way that conveys my sincere distaste for those moments and there were plenty.

So, now you know. If you think you can look beyond it, there is a decent story here. But I can definitely say, it wasn't for me. Knowing what I know now, I would have passed on this one.

272 people found this helpful

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  • Whitney Lewis
  • 05-11-18

Romanticizing Pedophiles

I can’t believe this book is legal. This is taking freedom of speech way too far.

In what world is it ok to depict sexual encounters between a pre-pubescent little girl and a grown man? Describing the details as if you’re reading an adult magazine. BUT WITH A CHILD! This is NOT a coming of age novel unless you’re normalizing sexual assault.

I would be horrified if my daughters read this book, thinking it was ok and romantic to be intimate with a grown man. It’s disgusting. I can’t believe this has anything above a one star.
I got 2/3rd of the way through and had to delete this. I felt wrong even listening to it.

20 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Elaine Calvert
  • Elaine Calvert
  • 02-01-20

Yuck

How I missed that this book was about a relationship between a young child and a grown man I’ll never know. I think this book was sickening. I am trauma trained and this book was like sitting through a class about abused children. No thanks.

18 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for 🎧 Cyndi Marie 🎧
  • 🎧 Cyndi Marie 🎧
  • 12-09-17

I will be thinking about this for days!!!

Wow, this book... just wow! I went in completely blind having not read anything about it and only knowing that a friend said I had to listen to it and boy she was right! I've never read anything like this before and I was so enthralled from chapter 1.

My heart broke the entire way through this book because it is so tragic, dark and unbelievably real, so much so that I couldn't stop wondering about how many kids live the life Wavy did and how many of them don't have a Kellen to help them through it. I know she was young but I honestly think that growing up the way she did made her grow up a lot faster than most kids (not saying its right but just that it's real), And as unethical as their love is, it was beautiful!! Seriously we should all be so lucky to find someone who loved us as much as they loved each other.

The writing style also blew me away! I loved that we not only got the main characters POV but we also get the POV of so many minor characters. That truly made this book what it was in my opinion!

The narration for FANTASTIC!!! She really gives every character there own voice and does is perfectly! I've only listened to Jorjeana Marie once before and I wonder why I don't see more from her in my preferred genre.

Side Note:
Now that I've finished I went looking to see what other people thought and I have to say as ugly as the situation in this story is, it happens in real life so putting on blinders that everyone lives in a beautiful world is naive. And to think that everything is always black and white is also naive. The part in this book that hit me the most was Wavy's meeting with the judge and I think I too need to be reminded that everyone's lives & family's are real even when they don't match what I think it "normal and acceptable". Books like this open my eyes to the way others live or sure!

86 people found this helpful