Wavy, a kid living a hard-knock life, and Kellen, a giant and gentle galoot, become increasingly mesmerized by each other.
Here’s a key plot point to keep in mind going into All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: a grown man and child fall in love with each other.
Not just the protective parent/child love, where the adult feels responsible for the kid’s happiness and well-being, although there’s that, too.
I’m talking about the bow-chicka-wow-wow, let’s get it on kind of love.
There are so many reviews praising Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, slathering it with praises such as, “It’s so emotional and beautiful,” or my favorite, “It’s not like that.”
Except it is.
EXCEPT. IT. IS.
It is sex (or close enough to it that it counts) with a minor. It is a tragic story of a girl who is emotionally and even physically stunted by her inappropriate relationship with a grown man who knows better.
That last sentence is purely my opinion, and might garner some debate. Kellen genuinely cares for Wavy and does seem to be a good influence in her life for while. But when you look at the story objectively, it’s only after the big event (which I won’t name, because spoilers) that Wavy starts to really thrive intellectually and build peer relationships.
I don’t know if she would have grown into herself as much with him as a constant an overwhelming presence.
Likeable as Kellen is, that relationship passes really far into the “Oh hellllll naw” territory. Admit it.
Yes, I’ll concede that she was already mature beyond her years when they met, hardened by life, and whatever other cliched excuse you can throw at it. But she was a child.
I’ll repeat that. She was a child.
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I was disappointed by their relationship. It was so nurturing and sweet at first. When it turned sexual, I kept thinking, “Nooooo! Why can’t you just put that on ice for a while and let her grow up first? You can get funky together in just a few years. Give it time” It was so disappointing when they took it too far.
I feel a little better about the ending. I’m glad they find Wavy’s brother and create a home for him. I’m glad they’ve found peace together. But I’m glad for their time apart. I think Wavy badly needed it.
I’m still giving All the Ugly and Wonderful Things three stars despite my criticism because, well, it’s a very compelling and well-written story. I couldn’t put it down, even when I felt uneasy about what was happening.
I want to read more from Bryn Greenwood, but next time, let’s pretty please save the spicy stuff for two consenting adults.