All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was probably one of the most difficult books that I have read since Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle. Like Wall’s memoir, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things explores the ugly side of poverty and child abuse. This book was powerful, gritty, raw, disturbing, and moving all at the same time. There were several points throughout this book where I took a break–not sure if I could stomach what I reading, points where I stopped to think about whether or not it was even ethical for me to continue reading, and many points where I couldn’t put this book down.
I was pleasantly surprised and a little dismayed at the misleading book description. After reading the description, I thought I was in for reading about a forbidden romance between a young girl and her father’s drug runner. This book is so much more than that. From the first chapter, you know that this book is unlike anything else. As the story unfolds, we meet Wavonna, or Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer and a mother with severe psychological issues. Their neglect and abuse leaves Wavy to fend for herself and her little brother until she finds an ally in a man that she rescues in a motorcycle accident.
Told through a multitude of view points throughout the book of people involved in Wavy’s life, Greenwood masterfully unfolds a multi-layered story that makes you think. One of the most surprising things about this book was the depth of story building and the time span of the novel. I loved that this book took the reader on a journey from Wavy at eight years old to a young woman of twenty-twoof. This book encompasses many of the ugly and wonderful things in life, the journey and perseverance that it takes to get to it, and the fact that love takes many shapes and forms. This book will make you uncomfortable but I believe that the author’s ability to shed light on this uncomfortable subject in such an endearing way makes this worth the read. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of the best books of the year.