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  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

  • A Novel
  • Written by: Bryn Greenwood
  • Narrated by: Jorjeana Marie
  • Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (944 ratings)

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Written by: Bryn Greenwood
Narrated by: Jorjeana Marie
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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.

What the critics say

"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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Awful

We started listening to this book on a road trip and were intrigued by the characters at first. However, the story of a very young child falling in love with a caring but none the less nondescript character, was implausible to us both. And then we both became very uncomfortable with the story as we could only describe it as child pornography. Stopped reading it altogether.

24 people found this helpful

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This needs a lot more work to justify this kind of story

As soon as you discover this is about a 13 year old and mid 20s guy having a romance, you ought to be reading this critically. And it’s my view that doesn’t do near enough work to earn the ending or to not be purely a romanticization of problematic issues without nuance, proper characterization, and believability.

For one, the characters characterization is built up prior to their relationship changing from a caregiver family friend to a sexualized one. As soon as it begins the story becomes plot driven, though still somewhat believable in terms of character driven plot.

However, as soon as that happens, every POV up until the aunt discovering their relationship completely romantizes every interaction they have. Even other people, usually girls, characterize Wavy as powerful, sexy, and beyond her years. And everyone else just sort of succumbs to her newly found mystique. As though she is wise beyond her years and somehow has agency.

Here’s the thing: the author frames the story so this isn’t objective. We are out into the headspace of purely the people who do not object to this, with the very small occasion of an adult being idk man, but does seem like they care about each other from what I can see.

There is no detail or scene given as much time as the sex and romantic aspects of their relationship. And every other perspective of people who aren’t Wavy’s cousins or friends are framed as antagonistic without us granted the same headspace as those people who approve of their being together. Even the apparent consent of the parents to the couple is glossed over to feed a plot point, rather than give nuance to the actual relationship.

Afterward the sexualization of Wavy, at 13, the agent of sexual awakening, apparently, and for the later entire half of the entire novel, there’s little to no characterization whatsoever. They no longer feel like they’re going to be fleshed out as actual people as their headspace is dominated by their thoughts of one another and there is no description, action, or any work at all to demonstrate that they’re lived in. And it also skates over things that would have had to have happened in this case.

Yeah, they’re broken people but even people who do not emotionally develop because of trauma are still situated in time and place and move through the world. Why did Wavy get no counselling? I’m not sure she could have actually refused a medical examination, or did she never go to the doctor ever in her life? Which would have negated a anticlimactic reveal.

They do not feel like real people, just vehicles for a question the author wants explored: Is there a situation in which this kind of relationship would be okay? The answer being, in a long enough time line and environmental factors adding two broken people, it’s the only way they can be okay, possibly.

Yet, the decision is made already by virtue of whose voices are given screen time, how those voices are slanted, and what information we are restricted from having. In a broken sort of way, a broken relationship can still be beautiful and true, right?

Except we don’t even get a full picture of the ways in which those traumas actually affect them at the time, nor the full effect. The only external factors are the system that rejects their relationship and their internalized beliefs about their relationship. Both serve no nuance. I don’t even buy the judge granting the other based on what Wavy said. Especially without a psych evaluation.

The head hopping wants to give the illusion that this is objective but reality is the farthest from intruding. The only thing the story succeeds at is romanticizing a very problematic relationship, in which no consent is possible - and the fact that the system does not support people with trauma.

Though, what the contours of their trauma actually is, who possibly knows.

12 people found this helpful

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Too many red flags for me

This book started out interesting, but got more and more uncomfortable as I went along. As a father of 4 daughters this book made me get more stressed as I went along. Couldn't finish it and wish I hadn't started.

8 people found this helpful

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On the fence

This was a tricky one. Overall the writing was exceptional and Greenwood’s skill to keep the storyline moving forward is a true talent. With that being said, regardless of the emotional connection between Wavy and Kellen, I found the content extremely disturbing and had to stop listening … sometimes for a few days. We're talking about a little girl and a much older man and I had difficulty moving past that. I skipped several chapters and went right to the last four chapters to find out what happened. And I'm glad I did.
The narration was outstanding! Jorjeana Marie gave each character a unique personality, and there was never any confusion as to who was speaking.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book, but if I did, I would warn the reader that it might be difficult to get through at times.

6 people found this helpful

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Not sure what I want to say

The narrator/s were pitch perfect. The book was well written,with good character development...particularly it’s main character.
However I needed to remind myself throughout the novel that she was a child who, because of her circumstance, was ripe for latching on to the first person who treated her with love and respect. In this case it is a fully grown man who often struggles (and loses) his desire to change the relationship from friend to lover. This started when she was 8 and was manifested by 13. While love was the only emotion each felt for the other...it sends a troubling message. This book is not for everyone. I’m still grappling with balancing the fiction of this book with a dangerous message.

6 people found this helpful

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tough story to finish

this was a powerful novel however the graphical details at times were very difficulty digest.

5 people found this helpful

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A beautiful love story!

I'm a sucker for a good love story. Highly unusual, and no doubt controversial, this is one of the best love stories I've encountered!. Many ups and downs that kept me completely absorbed in the story. At times it was difficult to hear what was happening but the overriding tone helped me to understand what was happening and why; even though I don't agree with some of it.
The characters were very real in my mind. I thought the narration was outstanding! This is one of the few stories I will probably listen to again.

4 people found this helpful

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Beautiful twisted story

Kept me inthralled in thier lives. A+. The different perspectives in each chapter keep me feeling for almost everyone.

3 people found this helpful

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Wow

I can’t deny that this booked shocked me, it filled me with so many conflicting feelings and down right grossed me out at some parts. But the story itself is beautiful and the end really got me. It’s taboo and wrong but even so I couldn’t help falling in love with Wavy and Kellen and hoping they would have a happy ending. I do highly recommend this book, it can be hard at times but even so all I feel is contentment at the end.

3 people found this helpful

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great book

an amazing performance coupled with a touching, complicated and heartbreaking story loved it so much

3 people found this helpful

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  • jksullycats
  • 2016-12-27

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.

288 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Michele McKeon
  • 2019-01-22

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.

219 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sherwyn
  • 2017-09-23

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.

188 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michelle prime
  • 2017-08-11

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

115 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • ❤️Cyndi Marie❤️🎧Audiobook Addicts🎧
  • 2017-09-12

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!

109 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Cheri
  • 2017-01-04

I'm In The Minority!

Contains some spoilers:
This was a hard story for me to rate and review. On one hand, the story was well written and I loved hearing all the different POV's, on the other hand, you have a 13 year young girl who's had hard life, and ends up developing feelings for an older man who has been there for her since she was eight. I've listened to several audios about young girls developing feelings for older men and I have to admit those stories were tastefully done and the things progress closer to a legal age. I do understand all the five star reviews, but I had mixed feelings about THIS story.Yes, Wavy had a hard life, grew up faster than most, but the whole story to me was on the depressing side. I felt the HEA, really wasn't that happy.

The plot was well written, descriptive, kept me right on the edge wondering what was going to happen next, and the character development was great, but overall I can only give this story two stars due sexual content of a 13 year with an older man. I know this is a fictional, and preteens/teens are sexual. I also personally know someone close to me who was pregnant at 13, married by 14 and has been happily married to the same person for the past 21 years, but this happened with someone close to their age and not an adult.

Jorjeana Marie did an amazing job narrating this story! There are some many characters, and emotions, this story had to be a challenge narrate.

93 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lori K.
  • 2016-11-08

Just like the title - ugly and wonderful

Eight hours into this 11 hour book and I was thinking I had wasted a credit; I couldn't stop listening, but I wasn't happy. Then it ended and all of a sudden this wave of emotion hit me like a freight train. That never happens. What a weird book! The first part is beautiful, then it gets uncomfortable, then it makes you question everything you thought you knew about relationships and family, then it gets like a bargain bin book, then it just sneaks up on you and crumples you. It never panders to your emotions. It doesn't care what you think. Definitely worth the credit. And definitely worth the time!

90 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michelle
  • 2017-08-24

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.

89 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Alyse Stolz
  • 2017-02-27

Not a love story everyone will love

I say be warned. The writing is beautiful and the story is something everyone would obsess over if it wasn't for the big detail of *when* the love story actually happens. If it wasn't for this detail, I'd probably love the book. But overall I'm just grossed out and not sold. Sex with children being portrayed as a love story isn't for me, no matter the circumstances or justification behind it.

89 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • David Walker
  • 2018-09-19

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.

73 people found this helpful