After spending a long time reading mostly YA fantasy, and thinking contemporary YA wasn’t really for me, I’ve been LOVING some of the Australian contemporary YA I’ve read this year, and now want to read it ALL! In particular, contemporary #loveozya set in rural areas is really hitting the spot (I grew up in rural Victoria, so this should probably be no surprise haha)
Absolutely one of my favourites so far has been Kate O’Donnell‘s debut YA novel Untidy Towns, which I finally picked up after it was longlisted for the ABIA awards (for Book of the Year for Older Children).
Seventeen-year-old Adelaide is sick of being expected to succeed on other people’s terms. She knows she just has to stick it out at school for one more year and then she’ll be free. Instead, she runs away from her fancy boarding school back to her sleepy hometown to read and dream.
But there are no free rides. When Addie’s grandad gets her a job at the local historical society, she soon finds out that it’s dusty and dull, just like her new life. Things change when she starts hanging out with Jarrod, a boy who seems full of possibilities. But it turns out he’s as stuck as she is. And Addie realises that when you want something in life, you’ve actually got to do something about it.
I’m not sure how to describe how reading this book made me feel – I kind of want to say ‘comfortable’ but I’m not sure whether that’s really what I mean. I slipped right into the world immediately, and loved spending time with it right from the start. Everything about it felt so authentic – the town, the families, the way people spoke to each other, and even though it isn’t a book that is driven by a lot of action, I didn’t want to stop reading.
Possibly my favourite thing about this one was the characters. Like I’ve said above, I found all the characters really authentic – I tend to find that the super wacky characters we sometimes see in fiction can pull me right out of the story, but in this case everyone felt like someone I knew. Having a daughter of my own, I have started to find that I identify more with the parents in contemporary fiction, and the mum in this book was AMAZING. Not perfect enough to be unrealistic, but total mum of a teenager goals!
I gave this one 4/5 stars, and it’s become one of my go-to books to recommend for people who aren’t sure they like YA.
Untidy Towns is published by UQP.
Check out the Goodreads page here.