Wednesday, October 18, 2017

[Review + Giveaway] Untidy Towns by Kate O'Donnell

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Publication: 02/10/2017
Publisher: UQP
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher for review
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

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My Rating
3/5 stars
My thoughts

Well that took way longer than expected. To be fair, I've been doing lots of tidying and assessments for my post-graduate certificate so I haven't been prioritising reading as much lately. But. This book was S.L.O.W. I was expecting some grand adventure or scheme, something, ANYTHING to happen, but it never really came and I can't help but feel a wee bit disappointed by it all.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to UQP and Sally for kindly sending me a copy of this book for review! Included with the book was a postcard - with a lovely message from Sally and a great quote from the book - and the book was WRAPPED UP IN NEWSPAPER! Not just any newspaper, it's made to look like an old newspaper from Emyvale, a small town in Victoria, Australia in which this book is set. My excitement levels were through-the-roof crazy high. I adored that cover SO much, it is gorgeous. The problem is that there aren't really that many bike adventures as I was expecting. Darn it, book cover deception! (Like that's ever happened before... *eye roll*)

Untidy Towns follows Adelaide, who ditches life at her prestigious private school in Melbourne and buys a train ticket back to small town Emyvale. Unable to deal with the pressures of year 12 and the education system where creativity is discouraged, Adelaide struggles with choosing what she wants to do with her life. She reluctantly accepts to finish year 12 by correspondence, and also finds herself working at the local historical museum with her grandfather. As she fits back into her old life in Emyvale, Adelaide re-connects with old friends and she may even be falling in love . . .

I loved the first chapter, I thought it was punchy and very exciting and it urges you to read on. 'I'd accidentally fled.' I know that as a teenager I used to dream of getting away from it all, do something spontaneous and crazy and end up in the middle of nowhere. Adelaide sort of did that, but that middle-of-nowhere is her hometown. So my initial impression of her was that she was smart, a bit impulsive and pretty cool. Bold.

Throughout the novel I discovered time and time again just how LOST Adelaide is, she really doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, other than this vague travelling around the world, busk for extra cash thing. And I get it, and don't. So many kids have no idea what they want to do with their life. Infinite possibility. So I empathised with Ady, it's a really hard choice to make, it feels like THE BIG THING to figure it all out, but there really is no hurry, and I like that O'Donnell says that. It's okay not to have it all sorted yet, you'll get there. I'm sure that if I were in the same situation I would feel more of a connection to the story.

And that's the point. I didn't feel much of a connection to the story. It may have been the writing style, it may have been the meandering plot, or a combination of the two. Untidy Towns is written in first-person past-tense. I think that a lot of the emotional responses were skimmed over too much, I like when there is more focus on that side of things so we get a full sense of how the character is thinking and feeling, and we are more inclined to see their development as the plot progresses. Also, some of the chapters felt choppy, like it would just end, the flow felt a bit unbalanced? Maybe it was intentional, I'm not sure, I suppose it follows a sort of diary-format...?

The characters were okay, but I don't feel like any of them were particularly memorable. I liked Mia, who is Adelaide's friend from her private school in Melbourne. Probably written to serve as a contrast to Adelaide, actually, now that I think about it. Mia is going to be a doctor, but she's also fun, cool and so unashamedly her. I just wish that we could have tapped into all the characters more, I feel like we only saw the surface. I did like how prominent her family was though, and how supportive her mum is.

I like reading about small towns. But things have to actually happen! It just seemed to drag on and on. There were glimmers of really sweet and lovely moments, nostalgic moments, but they were interspersed amongst the mundane. I did like when Adelaide starts taking more of an interest in the history of her town and becomes more involved in her job at the historical museum.

There IS romance in this book, too! It was sort of sweet, and there were some cute moments with the two of them that made me smile to myself. Jarrod and Adelaide make sense - they're both lost underachievers who have no clue what they want to do with their lives. It's a bit sad, actually. To me it doesn't matter whether they're going to make it in the long term or not, if Adelaide actually does travel or if Jarrod joins the army - what they have right now is enough. I liked the fight that they have too, I felt like that was realistic, but I also wish it had been developed further. They also explored sexuality in a healthy way and it was kind of sweet. :)

'Untidy Towns' is a lovely Australian YA debut novel about change, growing up and small town life. Adelaide struggles with finding out what she wants to do with her life, which readers will relate to. The romance was adorable, her interactions with her family even more so. I would have liked more focus on her emotions as I struggled to connect with her character. Overall, this was a promising debut and although it wasn't the groundbreaking book I was expecting, I do look forward to reading more from this author in the future.


  • 1x copy of Untidy Towns
  • Plus heaps of bookish swag!
  • Australia only!
  • Ends 15th November 2017
  • To enter, just leave a meaningful comment below. :) (If unable to comment, you can message me on Twitter @cc9309)

AUSTRALIA: A&R | Booktopia | Boomerang Books

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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