This Controversial Read Will Take You by Storm

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.

~Amazon Synopsis


All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of those rare books that on the surface is so controversial yet leaves you raw with feeling. I couldn’t put this book down, and it is by far the best book that I have read this year.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of those novels that I picked up as an add on with my Book of the Month subscription a while ago. It intrigued me because it won Book of the Year a few years ago, and I have enjoyed all of the Book of the Year selections that I have tried. With that being said, it has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now. I picked it up to read one day after making a promise to myself to pick books to read from my library that have been sitting there for years, but I did not anticipate the literary ride that I was about to embark on. I came away from the novel feeling confused, yet profoundly touched, and it took me awhile to figure out how I was to rate the novel based on its controversial content. But I came to the conclusion that each reader will have their own opinion of the story, and all I can do is share my own. So here goes.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things follows Wavy, a young girl who is unable to trust her parents due to their involvement with drugs. She chooses not to speak to others due to her distrust of people, until she meets one of her dad’s thugs, Kellen, and creates a special bond with him. The novel follows Wavy and Kellen’s relationship as Wavy grows up, and their bond becomes romantic.

Due to the age difference between Wavy and Kellen, their romantic feelings for one another can be seen as very controversial. However, there was no inappropriate intimacy between Kelly and Wavy until she was older. Kellen is even seen throughout the novel as being disturbed by his attraction to Wavy and her desire to be intimate with him, so he continually refrains from getting too physically close to her.

With that being said, the emotional relationship between Kellen and Wavy is endearing because we see how Wavy is able to open up emotionally to him and find comfort in an adult since the other adults in her life have failed her. Her desire to be intimate with Kellen makes sense, because she has been deprived of love from her parents and she hungers for that closeness that is missing from her life. The relationship that Wavy and Kellen share is vital for Wavy’s emotional needs, and it also serves a purpose for Kellen who is also missing close connections to other in his life.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is an endearing and painful story that made me feel more emotions than any other book that I have read this year. It challenged my view of emotional connections and how humans need these connections to survive. This book will challenge your worldview and reveal a side of life that is rarely seen. Give All the Ugly and Wonderful Things a chance. You will not be disappointed.

Published by Ashley Nestler, MSW

Ashley Nestler, MSW is a survivor of Schizoaffective Disorder, Quiet Borderline Personality, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, multiple eating disorders, and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ashley has dedicated her life to educating others on mental health and illness, as well as providing online resources for those who may experience barriers when seeking help for their mental health. Ashley is also the author of “Beautiful Nightmare”, “Into The Fog”, and “Behind Broken Glass Walls”. Her short stories and horror poems have been published in various anthologies. She is an educator on writing and loves to help authors through her book critiques and reviews. View all posts by Ashley Nestler, MSW

Originally published at on September 2, 2022.



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Ashley Nestler, MSW

Ashley Nestler, MSW


Mental Health Specialist, Author, Empowerment Coach, Book Reviewer, and Bibliotherapist. Creator of Releasing the Phoenix and The Ignite and Rise Academy