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Since We FellMadeline (29)
A Strange, Strange Book...

‘Since we Fell’ opens with the shooting death of Rachel’s husband and, just like judge Sarah Weinman promised, the reader is hooked.

Unfortunately, that momentum is just as quickly lost in the chapters that follow. The first two sections of the book are best described as a motley collection of vignettes hastily slapped together like polaroids in an old family photo album. We see little scenes into Rachel’s past… her manipulative mother, her absentee father, her troubled first marriage, her emotional breakdown in Haiti.

The more I read, the more ‘Since we Fell’ began to feel like the literary equivalent of quicksand; each step forward dragged me deeper and deeper into the insufferable sludge that is Rachel’s psyche (or, rather, author Dennis Lehane’s attempt at portraying the psyche of a wounded woman with daddy issues and post-Haiti survivor guilt).

The chapters jumped in time, and each passage was definitively past-tense. As a whole, it had a memoir feel to it. In fact, the long-winded passages about Rachel’s foray into broadcast journalism and her doomed marriage bore a striking similarity to the Megyn Kelly memoir I read a few months ago. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that writing style or pacing, it’s just not at all what you’d expect in a book that has been dubbed a “literary thriller.”

That format and pacing are abandoned in the third act. We find Rachel married to Brian Delacroix, the man who has quite creepily followed Rachel’s every move for over a decade. Brian was first introduced in act one as a private investigator hired to track down Rachel’s father. When he and Rachel later reconnect, he (inexplicably) is some sort of international lumber tycoon whose career (again, inexplicably) takes him all over Europe on lengthy business trips.

While the discerning reader will quickly akin Brian’s story to a piece of swiss cheese, Rachel is smitten. They have the perfect relationship full of trust and love and inside jokes, until… until Rachel happens to find a receipt in his jeans pocket, bearing the wrong date format. Panic ensues, and the story goes from slow-paced memoir to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ style spy thriller.

There are bad guys with guns. There is violence. There are boats and safe deposit boxes and loads and loads of cash. Yes, it literally turns into THAT kind of story.

I spent 75% of the book picturing Brian as Finn Wittrock in a sweater vest and horn-rimmed glasses, but in the flick of a page he turns into Jason Statham. I pictured Rachel-the-shut-in as a bumbling, oversized sweater-wearing Dakota Johnson. But somehow, in a matter of pages, she rises like a phoenix from the ashes of emotional ruins and becomes some sort of gun-wielding, police-evading, hardened action movie heroine.

A few times I had to stop reading, just to glare at the cover of the book and ask, “really?! seriously?!” By the end, I didn't care about any of the characters anymore. Despite the great lengths that Lehane went to, literally paving Rachel's past brick-by-brick, I just wasn't invested in her, or Brian Delacroix-Alden-Whatever, enough to care.

It was just a really, really strange book.

Dead LettersMadeline (29)
Clever and Endearing Story with a Harsh Outer Layer

'Dead Letters' started out as a slow read... the writing came off as pretentious and the prose was overly-wordy and just cumbersome. I wanted to put it down a few times, but I kept pushing... and I'm so glad I did. After a few chapters, this really turns around and the story becomes quite engaging.

It took me a week to muscle through the first four chapters, but I finished the rest in a day. Now that I've finished, I wonder if this was the author's intention... to design the book much like Ava (our protagonist and narrator) who begins very hard and impenetrable (and frankly unlikeable), softens and becomes more vulnerable over time. Whether intentional or not, it came off quite clever.

The mystery isn't anything mind-bending or riveting (a la 'Behind her Eyes') but it's enough to keep a steady pace and hold your interest till the end.

The characters (our narrator included) are all deeply flawed, but each had at least a glimmer of redemption.

I found the ending satisfying... loose ends were all conveniently tied, albeit unrealistically. It's not necessarily the ending you want, but the story of the Antipova family isn't one that can really have a neat and happy ending.

Like others, I did think the situation with Nico could have been handled better (what did he do to deserve all that?? His only crime was wearing scarves...) I found the pregnancy a bit cliche, but it fit with the overall frame of the story -- from A to Z; from death to birth.

Behind Her EyesMadeline (29)


The PossessionsMadeline (29)
Adult Themes Through a YA Lens

There's no argument that 'Possessions' is a work of adult fiction full of adult plots and themes, but... there's just something so distinctly, distractingly Young Adult about it.

Maybe it's the blank-canvas protagonist. Maybe it's the writing. Maybe it's the stuffy character names borrowed from Greek mythology (Eurydice, Leander, Pandora, Sylvia...) Maybe it's because the name "Elysian Society" sounds more like a clandestine Ivy League fraternity for discerning ayahuasca connoisseurs than a clinic for seeing dead people. (On that note -- why is it called a "society"? It's a strange word choice, right? Wouldn't something like... Elysian Institute, Elysian Clinic, Elysian Project, Elysian Center, Elysian Ward, etc. be more fitting? How is it a "society"?)

As I read, I just can't shake how reminiscent it is of a dystopian young adult drama / thriller.

Anyone else picking up on it?

Lucky YouMadeline (29)

I still haven't been able to find this elusive one line, but I remember it saying that as well ('couldn't believe she had slept with him...' or something to that effect).

There was also an exchange between Ellie and Rachel where Ellie says she loves Autry, and Rachel thinks something like 'sex isn't cheating, cheating is.. something else.' I wonder if that was meant to be foreshadowing?

I'm not sure what to make of any of it.. as I said in another comment, all I can guess is that it was a plot that Carter developed more in another draft but ultimately decided to cut out. I feel that way about most of the book, to be honest. It just feels like a draft full of ideas that never go anywhere.

Let me know if you do find it though haha! We might need BotM to do another author interview, just to clear up all the "so where were you going with ___?" questions :P

Behind Her EyesMadeline (29)
I hate to say it, but... (SPOILERS)

...I figured out the twist before the end, and I SO wish I hadn't because it's such a delicious and ridiculous twist.

The problem is that the author peppers in WAY too many clues throughout the book, and she isn't very subtle about it AT ALL. (Hell, even the title is a bit of a give-away!)

Usually when a major revelation is made in a psychological thriller, I have to stop reading, rack my brain and flip back through the chapters, trying to retrace all the clues I missed and piece everything together. With 'Behind Her Eyes,' every time there was a revelation I just found myself rolling my eyes thinking 'God, Louise, catch up with the rest of the class, we figured out what's going with that seven chapters ago.'

Like when Louise finally figures out what the second door is for, after it has been obvious to the reader for ages (given away earlier by Adele's omniscience, and her need to memorize spaces, like Louise's apartment).

The heroin was obvious as well: Adele conning Anthony into "delivering a package," followed by the scene where she's doped up and alludes to hiding her heroin kit, followed by a scene where she complains about the pain between her toes from shooting up.

The fact that heroin and obsession (particularly, an obsession with David) go hand in hand is almost too obvious, as the author smushes the scenes of Anthony and the flashbacks of Rob back-to-back. It's almost like the author is hissing: "psssst! this is important! there's a connection here!"

Adele's CONSTANT referring to her "masterplan" also makes it too easy to piece things together once the clues start rolling in. Especially the amount of time and detail that is spent on Adele pruning Louise (her diet, gym membership, smoking, learning her backstory, etc.)

For me the final nail in the coffin is the flashback scene where Rob, Adele and David are together at Adele's parent's house. Rob teases Adele about poisoning them with poorly cooked chicken, meanwhile he's something of an expert chef. "Of course he is," I thought. Because the author has reminded us plenty of times what an excellent cook "Adele" is.

Again, I think the twist is absolutely wonderful and brain-rattling... I just wish it hadn't been hinted at so much. I didn't want to figure this one out. In fact, I'm usually not great at guessing plot twists. Just need to soften the clues, make them a bit more subtle...

Lucky YouMadeline (29)

Great catch! Besides the brief mention of the 2008 election, I don't see why Carter deliberately chose that time? Maybe 2008 is when she began the first draft, and she stuck with it?

Lucky YouMadeline (29)
Did Ellie and Autry sleep together?

I very vividly remember reading a line where Ellie mentions sleeping with Autry. In fact, I remember thinking at the time, "what?!" and expecting that it would be revisited or explained later. Obviously, nothing was ever alluded to after this, nor was there any evidence to support that anything actually transpired between them.

But now I'm going crazy! I just scanned through the Ellie sections trying to find this one single sentence that I could have sworn I read, and I can't find anything. I'm convinced I must have mis-read something, or I'm just going completely crazy.

But... on the off-chance that I didn't misinterpret something or make all this up, did anyone else see this elusive line?

Homesick for Another WorldMadeline (29)

"It felt like trying to tell the story behind a Polaroid found in a dusty book" -- what a great way to describe this book! While I personally found the lack of arc or significant events frustrating, I appreciate the points you and other posters have made in this regard.

As for the "gross-out" factor, I disagree. It's not "the mere mention of a dildo" that makes 'A Long and Winding Road' gross, it's the fact that the narrator in that story has left behind his pregnant wife to take this solo camping trip where he ends up engaging in dildo sex with his brother's meth-smoking girlfriend.

"Swollen lady bits" aren't what make 'The Surrogate' gross, it's the descriptions of the narrator bringing a man home and offering him a clear plastic bag to put over his head while she strips down, revealing the picture of Charlie Chaplin glued to her said "swollen lady bits" with her labia flopping out behind it, and he tells her about his pet rabbit's red eyes.

These scenes felt gratuitous because they were pointless and didn't contribute to any sort of development -- situationally, or for the characters themselves. Story after story, it was just gross people doing gross things. It's like watching someone pick a zit off their face and eat the scab... you watch in horror and grimace, and then you ask yourself "why on earth did I just watch that?!"

Even faint-hearted readers can handle gore if it has a point or is part of a bigger picture. These stories lacked a point or bigger picture, and I think that's why some readers struggled. I have a strong stomach for this stuff, and I struggled to keep reading, too.

When I set this book down, I wasn't in awe of the story that I just read or the characters that I was introduced to... I just felt like I needed hand sanitizer and a hug from my mom, because holy cow this world is a grimy place.

Homesick for Another WorldMadeline (29)

An author writing in first-person is sort of like an actor; to tell their story effectively, they have to 'play the part.' They have to adapt the voice, thoughts, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, etc. of their character.

When you analyze a story written in first-person, part of your critique is determining how effective the author was at inhabiting their character and assuming their voice. Knowing the author's background adds a layer of perspective to this analysis.

An analysis of "Memoirs of a Geisha," for example, would question how authentically a middle-aged white man from Tennessee was able to assume the voice and identity of a young girl growing up in a Kyoto geisha house amidst WWII.

It's quite interesting that you assumed Moshfegh was a male author, and pondered whether "he used this book to divulge the fantasies he has himself." Your perception speaks to how Moshfegh's writing resonated with you, and suggests that her use of voice was effective. It's a noteworthy distinction, then, that Moshfegh is actually female.

Homesick for Another WorldMadeline (29)
Uncomfortable Vignettes from Dirty Minds

I was very excited to see a short story collection in the January line-up, but as I starting working my way through the book, my excitement and interest began to wane and turn to disappointment.

Let me preface this by saying -- I like 'weird.' I can handle stories that are gritty, uncomfortable, strange and downright gross. Maybe I've watched too many b-movies from the Netflix horror section, but it takes a lot to shock me.

That said, the brand of 'gross' that Moshfegh employs is senseless and cheap. There's no substance behind the gore, so these gritty vignettes of perversion, drug use, mental illness, etc. feel completely hollow and devoid of meaning or consequence.

To effectively pull off something graphic and offensive, I think an author has to offer some sort of substance or redemption. Whether it's an intriguing conflict that holds a reader's interest, or a bigger picture that gives purpose and meaning to what happens within the frame of a story, or an endearing character that garners a feeling of loyalty or compassion... there has to be something that creates substance, or gives the story a point.

These stories lacked that, and often felt 'weird for the sake of being weird.' As I worked through the first few stories, I found myself wondering 'what's the point? why did the author write this? where is this going?' Moshfegh often deviates from the standard story arc, and more than once I found myself reaching the end of a story and wondering '...that's it? nothing happened?'

Another issue I took was voice. This is entirely a matter of opinion (and I'm sure some will disagree with me on this), but I felt that Moshfegh could have challenged herself to create more distinct voices for each of the stories... especially since many of the stories were written in first person.

Writing in first person gives an author the opportunity to really flesh out the mentality and identity of a character, but after reading several stories, I felt that Moshfegh continually failed to shed her own voice and inhabit that of her narrator. She employed similar tone, syntax, phrasing, diction, and pacing from story to story.

For example, the protagonists (if you can call them that) in 'Mr. Wu' and 'Malibu' couldn't be more different -- one a neurotic pervert with a penchant for prostitutes, the other a lovesick pimple-face living with his uncle and collecting unemployment -- but they both use the oddly specific phrase 'moving their bowels.' That pimple-face from 'Malibu' doesn't have anything in common with the ridiculously inappropriate teacher who narrates 'Bettering Myself,' either, but they both describe doing calisthenics on their kitchen floors.

To me, failing to adapt the proper voice for a character feels on par with dressing up as the Little Mermaid for Halloween but failing to wear a bright red wig. If you're writing a story -- especially one in first person -- you need to embody the character completely. Would the narrator in 'Malibu' REALLY say 'moving my bowels,' or would he say 'taking a sh*t'? Would he REALLY do calisthenics on the kitchen floor, or would he try to run around the block and give up after the first 50 feet?

One story that did stand out from the rest in terms of character development and voice was 'A Dark and Winding Road.' In stark contrast to other stories in the collection, this one had a strong and tight construction to support the surprise ending. Moshfegh gave us the right balance of background and insight into the narrator, but left out just enough to create intrigue and curiosity and let us fill in the blanks. This was the first story in the collection where I imagined the voice of the male protagonist relaying his story, rather than the voice of its female author merely reading it aloud.

While the characters in other stories lacked a sense of voice or personal connection that gave substance to their weird or depraved actions, the narrator in 'A Dark and Winding Road' felt authentic and genuine... relatable and funny, even. And thanks to that substance and character development, there was meaning and motive supporting the closing scene.

There was also movement, and the sense that 'A Dark and Winding Road' was following the structure of a story arc. The other stories felt like brief exposures into the stagnant lives of sad people; in contrast, 'A Dark and Winding Road' felt like a proper story.

If only the other stories had followed this pattern, I think 'Homesick' would have been a strong collection of stories that were unsettling, but satisfying. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that wasn't ultimately the case.

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)

The swimming pavilion seemed to have a revolving door policy, and strange people (particularly women) were often coming and going. I don't think it's improbable that Gabriel's mother would wander back into Gil's life, if for nothing else than to see the train wreck she had narrowly avoided when she decided against settling down with Gil. If that's the case, we could view the scene -- breastfeeding Gil's baby, in Gil's house, during one of Gil's parties -- as Gabriel's mother 'trying on' Ingrid's life like a pair of shoes.

Of course this is just my attempt to find meaning in what I felt was a significant (yet unexplained) scene.

To be honest, when I first read the scene, I initially wondered if the woman was actually Flora's mother, and that through some chain of events (baby basket left on the front porch?), Ingrid would inherit Flora and be forced to raise her as her own. Obviously that's kind of a stretch, but I definitely thought that scene was significant. Still not sure why...

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)
Is Ingrid telling the truth?

There are elements of Flora's account (like raining fish or the phantom whale's head) that suggest she's an unreliable narrator, but what about Ingrid?

We know very little about her and her letters. What if they letters are her attempt at writing fiction (casting herself and Gil as the main characters)? What if she planted the letters for someone else to find... perhaps to incriminate Gil or disparage his name and reputation? What if she fabricated the marital woes out of boredom or as a means to cope with the lack of adventure in her life?

Without hearing the events through another POV, I have to wonder... how much do we actually trust Ingrid? There's certainly room for manipulation, especially when we consider the complicated relationships / roles of Jonathan and Louise.

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)

I wondered this as well, and I think the most likely explanation is that Ingrid sincerely believed they were better off without her. In her letters she often questions her role or legitimacy as a mother, and expresses how disconnected she felt from her daughters. Nan was independent, and Flora was free spirited... neither depended on Ingrid. The only child she truly felt a connection to was the son she lost to miscarriage.

I think her leaving (whether we interpret it as suicide or just leaving Gil) could only happen once she accepted and made peace with the fact that nobody in her life actually "needed" her -- Gil or her daughters. I don't think she would have left otherwise.

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)

I wondered if we got a clue about Gabriel's mother in the scene where Ingrid catches another woman breastfeeding Nan and says something to the effect of 'she would eventually understand' why / how the woman was able to do so.

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)

Oliviaard, totally agree about Jonathan! I kept waiting for him to play a bigger / more climactic role, but he never quite came out of the shadows fully. I also wonder what Ingrid really thought of him? We don't get much insight from her letters -- did she have feelings for him? Were the fantasies her own, or did she make them up for Gil's sake? Would she truly have escaped to Ireland with him? (What about an ending where they lived together in Ireland, and she was able to "look after" her daughters through him?)

There were many things in the book that I thought would become meaningful (the pink dress, raining fish, etc.) and the biggest was Jonathan. He left me with so many questions!

(And I was also convinced he'd be Flora's father!)

Swimming LessonsMadeline (29)
So Many Questions! (Spoilers!)

Once I had gotten hooked on this book, I tore through it, desperate for answers and resolution. The structure of Ingrid's flashback letters interwoven with Flora's present-day first person is beautifully executed.

Fuller does such a genuine job of depicting love from multiple perspectives -- naive and fresh, then damaged and cynical. Her writing moved me to tears a few times!

But what I struggled with was how many loose ends were left untied, and how many burning questions were left unanswered. Particularly the biggest question -- what happened to Ingrid?!

When I put the book down, my mind racing with questions and "but what about...."'s, I thought back to the scene where Ingrid is in Gil's college course and he chastises her reading group for seeking too much meaning from a text. Ironically, that's the exact quandary I've found myself in as I tried to assemble the clues and metaphors to construct some sort of tangible meaning.

Here are a few that are nagging at me:

-Was there something going on between Nan and Richard? All those meaningful looks and wordless exchanges? What about when she disappears uncharacteristically just before Gil's climactic demise, and Richard just so happens to "find" her... and when they come home (hours late) she's wearing his sweater and her hair is a mess (page 340).

-Speaking of Gil's climactic demise... who was in on it? Jonathan conveniently got rid of Flora and Gabriel with a joint but notably didn't provide matches (page 331) -- perhaps because he needed to start a fire of his own? He and Louise used the alibi of leaving for a sandwich, but perhaps they were really involved with fulfilling Gil's deathwish of burning with his house of books?

-What if Ingrid snuck in and set Gil ablaze herself? After all, she was the one who made the very specific request that her notes be burned... and why not burn Gil with them? The final passage describes the mystery woman looking out onto the Spanish Green. What if it's Ingrid, and all this time she's been able to peak at the swimming pavilion from her hideout -- seeing Gil and her daughters, but never being seen? Would that mean the book closes with her watching from her secret voyeur's perch, as her secrets disappear into the air with the smoke?

-The final note -- Gil never found it. Do we know he found all the others? Does anyone else wish that Nan or Flora had found them, and gotten some insight -- closure even -- into their mother's disappearance?

-The Louise affair didn't make sense to me. From Gil's perspective, I get it. He's just written this book that is basically an account of his wife (Ingrid) fantasizing about his best friend (Jonathan). He must be hurt on some level, because targeting Louise (Ingrid's friend, who in a lot of ways represents what Ingrid could have been) is an "eye for an eye" sort of punishment. So that makes sense. But why on earth does Louise go for it?!

-There were several parts of the book that we see through Flora's POV that make me question whether they're real or a figment of her imagination. (Raining fish, the squeaky floorboard, the whale head, etc.) These scenes had an improbable dream-like quality. I got the same vibe when Jonathan, Louise and Gabriel all roll up together at the end -- why are all these people together, coming over for whiskey and a book bonfire? It doesn't quite make sense, and considering that Flora has been established as an unreliable narrator, I couldn't help but question the events of the scene.

Every Man a MenaceMadeline (29)
Couldn't Get Into It

This read like a novel adaptation of a Grand Theft Auto game. I just couldn't get into it. As others have said, it was a fast-paced read, but this was mostly due to there being very little in the way of description. The story was primarily driven by dialogue and action, with some background details that felt like stuffing to prop up said dialogue and action.

I couldn't get a clear picture in mind of who these characters were or the places they visited (which is remarkable considering the story moves through so many diverse and colorful places, and involves so many potentially interesting and complex characters).

This was a real dud for me.

The Fall GuyMadeline (29)

I'm one of the naysayers that was disappointed with this selection, but I do agree about the ending -- didn't see it coming! I'm curious to hear what your predictions had been for the ending?

The Fall GuyMadeline (29)
Disappointing, and Not as Well-Written as it Seems

You know that exercise in college creative writing classes where your professor tells you to spy on strangers and record their conversations so you can learn how to write dialogue? Yeah, that's what this book felt like... transcribed real-life conversations, several pages long, awkwardly transplanted into this story. More specifically, 'Fall Guy' was filled with rants and ramblings on the 2012 Occupy Wall Street protests.

I got the impression that characters -- specifically Charlie and the random houseguests that pointlessly lingered through a few chapters of dull filler -- were real people; people whose thoughts, actions, conversations, and idiosyncrasies the author borrowed to create this strange and unlikeable cast.

What was the point of it all? It just felt like something the author included because he knew someone like that in real life and thought they'd make a good character in his book.

The dialogue wasn't all that felt pointless. The dreary, dragged out descriptions of food and references to art were equally tedious to read. The flashbacks that were ineffective at establishing background or explaining the conflict or motive felt like a chore.

Worst of all, the author sprinkled a trail of details that FELT like clues (money in the safe, the protests, the rainbow people, Charlie's trips into the city, Matthew's missing father...) but they all ended up amounting to nothing.

Some readers have opined that the author does a good job of depicting Matthew's slow decline into mental instability, and I'd agree to an extent. There were some scenes where this was well executed -- like when Matthew accompanies Chloe to a party and imagines himself playing the role of her husband, or the police interview.

Where the author failed, though, was in establishing Matthew as this 'fall guy' character. I felt that he was trying to use the flashbacks to establish that Matthew was always taking the 'fall' for Charlie, and that his motive for killing Chloe's lover was once again him taking the 'fall' to protect his cousin. The author reinforced this idea by repeatedly reminding us of how Matthew felt personally betrayed and consumed by Chloe's infidelity.

While I definitely saw the author build this framework, he fails to flesh it out and make it believable. WHY was Matthew so weirdly protective of Charlie? Why was he so consumed and fascinated with his life, with his wife? Can we trust Matthew's flashbacks? Can we trust Matthew's account of what happened? And if so, why were these details purged so late... so suddenly? And why, after killing Chloe's lover, does Matthew feel a solidarity in keeping this 'secret' with Chloe -- the woman he felt betrayed by?

There are too many missed connections and things that don't quite add up or make sense. The 'blink and you'll miss it' ending didn't help matters.

This was an anti-climactic, unsatisfying, and poorly fleshed out attempt at a psychological thriller. Hardly the page-turner the description alluded to.

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsMadeline (29)

In Wavy's rose-tinted child eyes, Kellen was this 'knight in shining armor' character that offered a degree of stability and safety amidst chaos. To me, he lost some of that 'prince charming' luster in the third act, especially after the string of bad decisions he made out of jail.

Rather than become equals, I felt like Wavy became superior to him. She became well-spoken, confident, and educated... while I can understand that Kellen would always be her 'rock,' I still felt it was a bit lop-sided.

That said, I can't think of any other way we could have gotten emotional closure or a happy ending!

I hope that people don't pass this book up because of the subject matter. I agree with you, it'd be their loss!

The Woman in Cabin 10Madeline (29)

I whole-heartedly agree with the Agatha Christie comparisons. The way we're introduced to this eclectic cast of characters and slowly fed little morsels of motive and suspicion is very reminiscent of a Poirot novel. Definitely a proper "who-dunnit." All we're missing is our beloved Belgian detective! That said, I found myself wishing I could step into the novel and tell Lo to go take a nap so I could take over the detective work myself.

Whereas an Agatha Christie protagonist is refined, clever and calculating, Lo was clumsy and awkward. She tactlessly intruded, made demands, blurted her observations rather than processing them internally... she made a sloppy detective, and an even worse narrator.

Luckily, the mystery and clues gave the novel much-needed traction!

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsMadeline (29)
Thoughts on the Ending

Spoilers, obviously.

The first two acts of the book were so rich with detail. The slow pace seemed intentional; like the author was building our trust and gently guiding us through each gritty trauma that Wavy endured.

The third act, however, felt rushed. Though she had some great lines, I didn't really appreciate Wavy's roommate as a narrator. She lacked the prose and depth of the characters we had spent the first two acts learning to trust. I found myself skimming over the interactions with 'college boys.'

I also found myself disappointed with Kellen. Though we had already seen plenty of unflattering scenes earlier in the book, Kellen's behavior out of jail was the first time we saw him as truly broken and flawed.

Finally, I felt massively disappointed with Wavy and Kellen's reunion. The first two acts had slowly made me protective of Wavy and Kellen's relationship. The way they reunited and promptly had sex for the first time, in another woman's bed, was just... such an ugly strike against a beautiful relationship.

While the rest of the book is a fairy tale where love conquers all, these scenes felt uncharacteristically gritty and raw. Wavy and Kellen's relationship was the one 'wonderful' thing amongst a world of 'ugly,' but this scene (and the subsequent confrontation outside of the library) made me question whether it was really a love worth trusting or protecting, after all. Seeing it from the outside perspective of Wavy's roommate didn't help.

I also felt the ending wrapped up the details of Wavy's parent's death too quickly... an add-on tossed in on the last page, summarized hastily in a few paragraphs.

And while we got the emotional satisfaction of Wavy and Kellen finally 'ending up together,' some of the sparkle was gone. Kellen was a thirty-something convicted sex offender who had been unfaithful and would never find a real job. Wavy was a college-educated young adult staggering towards stubborn independence. What happens after they ride Kellen's bike off into the sunset? For me, the ending was where I found the most dissonance between reality and the fairy tale happy ending; while I had spent the entire book anxiously rooting for Wavy and Kellen, I realized that there would never be a 'happily ever after' for them in the real world.

What did you think of the ending? Did it detract from the book as a whole for you, or was it the only 'happy' ending that could have come out of this tragic love story?

(Despite being quite critical of the ending, I still adored this book beyond words, by the way!)

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsMadeline (29)
Why did the author use first-person for some POVs, and third-person for others?

I was blown away by how skillfully the author wove this beautiful, intricate love story out of such gritty, ugly threads. The subject matter was heavy and dark, but through prose and alternating POVs, we found something beautifully pure and precious at the center of Wavy's tragic world.

Other readers mention feeling conflicted over the moral grey area of Wavy and Kellen's relationship. I think the key here is that the author utilizes the alternating perspectives to 'show' rather than 'tell' the character's intentions, feelings and emotions. By seeing the story through a character's eyes, we intrinsically trust them.

While the main POVs were in first-person (like Wavy and Kellen), others were in third person. The author also chose not to show the story from the perspective of several characters at all.

I thought this was really interesting, and wanted to know what fellow readers thought. Why were some POVs in first-person and others in third? Why do you think the author chose the POVs that she did? Do you think the author only chose POVs that were trustworthy?