Review Blog

Nov 15 2017

Untidy towns by Kate O'Donnell

cover image

UQP, 2017. ISBN 9780702259821
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Rural life, Private schools, Future, Relationships, Conformity, Friendship. Abruptly leaving her city private school in March during her year twelve is scholarship girl, Adelaide's best move. She has endured this place since year seven, putting up with the slights from other girls, the meaningless relationships and the push to strive and do well to represent the school, to conform, toe the line, and behave. But suddenly she no longer wants to be the girl they want her to be, so catches the train and goes back home to Emyvale near Geelong. Mum meets her at the station, and there follows a blossoming of her place in the world, a realisation that she can do what she wants. She becomes the intern at her grandfather's history museum in their small town, a step towards fending for herself, of finding her path.
She meets the people she went to primary school with, rekindling relationships from long ago with relative ease.
Her family does not pressure her to do anything she doesn't want to do, allowing her space to find out what it is she really wants, while she finishes her studies long distance and applies for a uni course for the following year, to keep her options open.
When Mia comes to stay during the school holidays, things change. She becomes involved with Addie's old friend, Jen and the two work out how they can see each other at uni the following year. Adelaide becomes embroiled in her relationship with Jarrod, to such an extent that people are expecting them to become more of a couple and stay in the town. Adelaide has a melt down and they argue but in making up, she realises that this is the jolt she needs to do something. Exam results, New Year, and uni offers for some the following year are the background to the last chapters of this engaging novel about making choices, making your own path in life, making decisions about your own future.
Lashed with humour and stories of the town the whole is a diverting look at people with hard decisions to make about their futures. Told in chapters following the months from March to January, the chronology of the book invites the reader to compare it with their own path and decision making in what many see as a crucial year. Seeing past what others want for her is part of the mix.
The cover compels the reader to pick up the book, eager to see what the young girl will do in her untidy town. The design, font and illustration stand out on shelves full of books with unremarkable covers, and once inside the readers will be unable to put the book down. A choice made through good design.
And I love the list of books read and those still to read at the end of the book.
Fran Knight

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