Friday, August 25, 2017

Mini Reviews: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

I recently read two very different books that both happen to deal with the issues of family, identity and love. Opposite though they are in many ways, I loved them both and I figured I'd review them together.

"This Is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel
First published in 2017
327 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

I came for the plot about a transgender child -- something I want more perspective on -- and I stayed for the fresh writing and the wonderful characters! This book was fantastic -- one of my favorite reads of the year.

"This Is How It Always Is" introduces readers to the large, quirky, lovable Walsh-Adams clan of Madison, Wisconsin -- doctor Rosie, writer/stay-at-home-dad Penn and their five boys.

The youngest is 5-year-old Claude, who is about to start kindergarten and suddenly announces he wants to wear dresses -- not only that but a bikini to go swimming and a purse to take his lunch to school. He wants to grow out his hair and go by a girl's name.

The story is about Claude's gender dysphoria, but it's also about family and how each of them deals with his new identity -- along with the everyday highs and lows of life. Readers get to know everyone from brilliant, athletic, popular eldest child Roo to sweet, sensitive, adorable Claude. And we become intimately acquainted with parents Rosie and Penn as they grapple with tough decisions and try hard to figure out the right things to do for their daughter.

I was completely emotionally invested in this story. It made me smile, it made me want to cry, and I fell in love with the wonderful cast of characters, especially matriarch Rosie whom I found to be perfectly relatable. I was prepared to award it my first 5-star rating of the year, but the last section fell ever so slightly flat for me; it just didn't engage me as much as the rest of the book. Regardless, this is definitely one of the best books I've read in 2017 and I strongly urge you to pick it up whether, like me, you want to learn more about transgender people, or whether you just want a damn good story!

"All the Ugly and Wonderful Things" by Bryn Greenwood
First published in 2017
344 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wow. This book was the most unique thing I've read in a long time, it was impossible to put down, it gave me all the feels, and it had me totally wrapped up in the story even as it horrified me.

If you know anything about "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things," surely it's that the plot centers on a romantic relationship that develops over several years between a man and a girl with an age difference of over a decade. That's indeed true and if you think that's an issue you just won't be able to get over, then perhaps this book is not for you. I did find it to be a bit disturbing here and there, but that's what I want sometimes -- a book that makes me feel things, all different kinds of things.

And there's so much more to this unconventional love story. Both Wavy and Kellan have endured unthinkable, hideous things -- and Wavy is just 8 when the story begins. Her father is a meth dealer, her mother is an abusive parent and an addict. And Kellan and Wavy save each other over and over again. They are fascinating characters and, while quite obviously flawed, full of a magnificent strength and courage.

This book had been on my to-read list for a while, and then I was chatting with a patron at the library and she told me she read it in 24 hours. That was just the kind of thing I was in the mood for so I went and grabbed it off the shelf, and she was so right: this is one of those all-consuming stories that sucks you in and won't let you go.

It's a little controversial, yes, but it's also devastating, enthralling and beautiful -- and it's one of the few books I don't think I'll ever forget.


  1. Wow those books sounds great!! Both a very high rating from you :)
    I'm so curious if I'd like them as much, so added them to my TBR!

    1. I know, I've been a little stingy with good ratings this year -- and STILL no 5-star books for me! Hope you read and love them both! :)

  2. Both of these are on my TBR! I can't wait to check them out!

    1. I have an awful memory, even when it comes to books, but I read these a couple weeks ago and they're still fresh in my mind! I hope you love them too!


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