• All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

  • A Novel
  • By: Bryn Greenwood
  • Narrated by: Jorjeana Marie
  • Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (16,119 ratings)

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Publisher's 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

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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.

212 people found this helpful

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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.

185 people found this helpful

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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.

88 people found this helpful

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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.

69 people found this helpful

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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.

66 people found this helpful

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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.

58 people found this helpful

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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.

47 people found this helpful

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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

112 people found this helpful

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Whoa......boy......

This is hard. I read so many reviews for this book. I don't ever read reviews UNLESS I've finished a book and I am feeling a certain way. I loved it.....Did others love it for this reason that I loved it?
i hated it......Did others think this certain thing that i am thinking?
My reason for reading reviews for this one was IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK....SHOULD I BE LIKING OR HATING THIS BOOK??!!! BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW!!!

This is a tough one. One minute i feel like crying until i have no more moisture in my body and the next i feel like puking until i have no more moisture in my body. There were times i was sooooo uncomfortable, not a soul was in the room with me and i have earbuds in my ears and i am sure my face is flaming hot. I feel sick. But OMG!!! There have never, in my years of reading, been two people who i felt loved each other as much as these two did. These two people had no one else in the entire world who loved them but the other. (with the exception of Donal) This is such a heartbreaking.....Lord, i have no words. I am actually sitting here shaking my head, lost as i am typing this out.

A lot of the bad reviews were people who hadn't even finished the book. I must be very honest...If i hadn't had a couple of people (friends) to tell me to keep an open mind, i would have been one of those that quit and rated it 1* and calling poor Kellen a pedophile.

Do i recommend this book? I don't know. It truly depends on you. If you aren't a liberal minded person who has even one ounce of compassion in your body, then no. If you do, try it. Because i can honestly say, it is a story that will most likely stick with you for the rest of your life. I am truly glad i read it. I feel i am a different person because of it.

30 people found this helpful

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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.

284 people found this helpful

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  • LilleyLoohLah
  • 10-03-16

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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Lo
  • 11-30-16

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Cabaspre
  • 12-10-17

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-02-21

Unnecessary sexual content

Really disappointed with the inappropriate sexual content. The story could have been good, but there was so much detailed sexual content with a minor which I found really quite disturbing.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Pootle_around
  • 03-04-19

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • helen claire smith
  • 12-20-17

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Lucy D
  • 09-27-21

Could not finish. Sex with 13 year old... Gross

Horrified by what this turned into . Sad and creepy . Cannot understand how this is an OK subject ?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tish smith
  • 10-16-19

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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  • Laura Pearson
  • 06-12-17

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Sigrin
  • 10-26-19

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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  • karen
  • 09-26-17

A first for me ...

If you could sum up All the Ugly and Wonderful Things in three words, what would they be?

Opens your mind.

What did you like best about this story?

The unique story and characters. I read a lot but the unorthodox personalities and unpredictable plot were refreshing to me. Definitely thought-provoking.

Which character – as performed by Jorjeana Marie – was your favourite?

Kellen because he has been misunderstood all his life but finally finds someone who 'sees' him.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Life is Ugly yet Wonderful.

Any additional comments?

This is the first audiobook that I've wanted to start re-listening to from the beginning right after l processed the ending of the book. This is excluding the countless of times l had to re-listen to sections of the book because of the power of their words. The narration captured the characters, the scenes and the emotions perfectly. Not an easy feat considering there were a dozen plus POVs! This is not a story for the faint-hearted but trust me the feelings you experience are worth every moment of your time. It's so stimulating to step out of your comfort zone and be challenged to open your mind. Life is never black and white, nor is Love (in fact it is far more than 50 shades).

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tracy
  • 09-10-17

icky. Avoid.

Would you try another book written by Bryn Greenwood or narrated by Jorjeana Marie?

No. The narrator was fine. The writing was fine. The story was really icky. There were many moments that I found really disturbing- not in a good way; not in a clever way. It seemed the author spent a lot of the book justifying sexual grooming and sleeping with minors. Many times I nearly stopped listening all together, but kept going, thinking there would be some resolution at the end. there wasn't. the end was tacky and really really...ick. The groomer got the girl. Society was wrong for misunderstanding their true love. Because, you know, 13 year old's who are under developed physically and (completely, devastatingly, emotionally damaged), are totally able to differentiate between love and sexual gratification. Especially when they are such good cooks and cleaners and know how to take care of their man, and he's like, loved her since he met her when she was 8. yep. nothing dodgy about that (she said with deep cynicism)Don't be fooled. This is not Lolitta. Its like Lolitta without the intellectual barriers, It was impossible for me to get over the whole "sex-with-minors-is-actually-ok-if-you're- in-love" aspect. Would have been embarrassed to have anyone overhear me listening to it. especially when the sex scenes. I'm not sure if the author was trying to be shocking by graphically describing a 13 year old talking about how wet she got, or if he was just getting off on it. Some sideline stories about drug addiction & a fairly limp who dunnit murder. Lots of nasty "trailer park" stereo types (yes, all poor people are drunks/drug addicts who abuse & neglect their children). The more I reflect on it, the more I regret reading it! I almost feel implicated in the ickyness just by having read this book. And it's insidious - you don't realise until you are "hooked" into finding out what happens.It's kind of like, if you were reading a story about world war II, got engaged in the characters and then suddenly realised it was written by a holocaust denier who was peddling their racist xenophobia under the guise of fiction. I realise that, as a reader, I was manipulated to sympathise with a character who, intentionally or not, groomed and manipulated a really vulnerable child into "loving" them, who then encourages a sexual relationship to develop, and the whole message of the book was that that's ok. Yuck. So So So not ok.

Would you ever listen to anything by Bryn Greenwood again?

Nope.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

She could have avoided making the 13 year old sound (and later 21 year old) sound even younger, The voice of Wavy was stuck around the 8 year old age, which made the sexual parts even more horrific to listen to. Was this intentional? If so, why?

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

disgust & the need to go have a good wash

Any additional comments?

maybe I am missing some big picture. I don't think so. I have no idea who the book is aimed at, as the "love story" components are stereotypical chick lit romance, but the sex is middle-aged-man-in-overcoat. I'm really cross that nothing in the blurb indicated what this story was actually about - a man's love affair with a child. Should come with a warning,

4 people found this helpful

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  • Melanie Nicholls
  • 07-19-22

Unexpectedly good, some spoilers

I decided to stop reading reviews. So i went in pretty blind to this book. It was a freebie on audible so I just loaded it and went in without even reading the synopsis to kill a few hours.

But here are the basics: Wavy is traumatised because she has a garbage family. Keellen is one of her fathers employees. She meets him when she's 8 and he's 19/20. It begins with him just helping her out where her parents won't - making sure she gets to school safely, making sure she's got her enrolment, keeping her company when she doesn't want to go home. But Wavy, who sees the world through a trauma lens, forms strong feelings for the only adult she feels safe with, and that adult ultimately develops inappropriate feelings for her in return, and by the time she's 13 and he's 24, there's no going back.

They call this a love story. And to that I say...it's complicated. We look at poverty and crime and abuse and neglect and how trauma informs Wavy's decisions and Keelen's as well. We are faced with an uncomfortable scenario where there don't seem to be any good solutions. And in the end - at least for me - I just wanted Wavy to be happy and to have her own choices.

It's really good, but huge trigger warning about sexualisation of children.

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  • Kelly
  • 04-22-22

A well written and abhorrent story

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how beautiful, artful and compelling the writing is, the story is basically a clever attempt at making the reader think that child sexual abuse can be ok as long as it’s ‘true love’. It’s not.

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  • Jess
  • 05-14-21

terrific book, challenging subject matter

I loved this book. well written, well narrated. challenging subject material presented from many different perspectives, which felt realistic.

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  • Brittany james
  • 04-13-21

Could not stop listening!!

I absolutely love this book from the very first chapter to the very end i could not stop listening to it. It was gripping and an amazing story. the narrator did a great job of separating the different characters voices so you could tell who was who. I really want them to put more of this authors books on Audible.

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  • Mellisa counsell
  • 01-30-21

Ugly and Wonderful

I loved this book for the way it covered such an ugly subject, the characters are rich and developed in such a way that I can see them, I feel like I know them. I am going to have a book hangover for a very long time

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  • Renee
  • 09-29-19

great story. I couldn't stop listening

I loved it. The storyline made me uncomfortable in some bits, but was all round still a great listen. It had me hooked from the start to the finish.

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  • Frankster
  • 09-04-19

Magnificent!

You will fall in love with Wavy and be surprised at every turn of her incredible story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-25-19

Great storyline

love the books, challenges your values and morals in every way. have read multiple times