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Untidy Towns

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  311 ratings  ·  83 reviews
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 soci
Paperback, 300 pages
Published October 2nd 2017 by UQP Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  311 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
“This moment felt significant so I lay there and tried to breathe it in, to suck it down and store it. It felt important. I felt swelled with it.”

Definitely could have been and should have been a 5 stars read for me.

The first half made me immensely happy to read: the small town feel was just ahhhh. *happy sigh* I really wished it would have focused on their friend group though. I just didn’t like the languid and ambiguous character development thing, it went on for too long and became sort
Michael Earp
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The writing in Untidy Towns is wonderful. This is a book where nothing much happens in the best possible way. It's about stressing over what comes after high school, what to do next. I think if I'd read this book when I was in year 12 I would have been incredibly reassured: you don't need to have all the answers. I didn't achieve well in school. That may have been my own fault, but it didn't stop me stressing about it. If someone told me that I could work for a couple of years until I figured ou ...more
This OzYA is definitely not an action thriller or a mile-a-minute page-turner or a huge crisis-climax plot followed by magically tied-up loose ends. You'll need to look elsewhere for that.

What it is is a grounded, meandering exploration of what it might be like to not achieve all the amazing stuff you were expected to achieve. To run away from your fancy school scholarship back to your tiny country town, to have no idea what you want to do next, to have no motivation to do well at your Year 12
Clare Snow
I think my fav type of book is one which forgets the plot.
"We're sitting there on the platform, not waiting for a train but the possibility of a train. Something to get us from here to there, wherever that might be."

Circling the town in lazy loops. A horse in the house. Wishing for something.

A year in the life of not quite sure, and never finding any kind of answer.
Emily Mead
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
A wonderful story, and definitely one I could have done with in year twelve!

Review to come!

[insert skeleton emoji of all my fans eagerly awaiting said review]
May 2021: I am no longer the person who craved this book, but I still love the story it tells about home. womnderful to let books change as you do.

I had the sudden urge to reread this and I find it as compelling as ever. I really relate to Addy finding that she doesn't quite know what she wants until it's upon her. I also love what a big part books are of the narrative, and lying on a sunny carpet eating Granny Smiths has many analogous situations to my life. I adore this story and a
Cass -  Words on Paper
This book. <3 I will cry if I don't love this to bits!

Edit: OMG I was given a copy for review by UQP! I'm so so so excited! ^_^ I'll be reading this next, honestly, I am so ready, I hope I love it!!!



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
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-literature
Slow-paced meandering story, like the rural roads described within. Likeable main character charting a different future - not the driven uni-or-job future. Thoughtful representation of country life and a teenager who resists the status quo of a perfectly mapped out life.
Bree T
I hadn’t heard of this book before it popped up on my doorstep but I was immediately intrigued. It arrived packaged so beautifully, wrapped in paper that looked like the old Melbourne to Warrnambool train timetable, with a postcard, a little button and a page marker that looked like a V-line ticket before Myki became a thing. For pretty much the entire time I’ve lived in Victoria I’ve also lived on the Warrnambool line although I’m close to Melbourne so really it’s another line by the time it ge ...more
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loveozya, bookgasm
A charming, quiet contemporary about losing your way and finding your way home.
A fun, fresh voice in #loveozya
Cass Moriarty
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Untidy Towns (UQP 2017) is the debut YA novel by author Kate O'Donnell. Like all good stories for young adults, the narrative shares the adolescent angst and emotional upheaval of that liminal time between finishing high school and finding your way in the wider world, of searching for your own sense of self and identity, and of navigating relationships – the complicated bonds of family, the uncertainty and tentativeness of young love, and the fickleness and loyalties of friendship. What is speci ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even though there isn't anything major that happens in this story, I really enjoyed it. I related to the characters and the small town and even started reminiscing about camping with friends as teenagers. I adored Adelaide's mother and her relationships with both her daughter's, her parent-in-law's, her new partner and her daughters friends and I could actually imagine myself living in this town. And so while there was not any accidents or drownings or things to cry about..... I still think it w ...more
Jase Cordova
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Filled to the brim with character and love, I found myself welling up at moments that probably hadn’t called for such a reaction and having to hold the book to my body as I took a breather.
Beautiful prose, loveable characters, relatable content, I was filled with nostalgia for a time I didn’t think I cared about, and a place I’ve never known. This is the kind of book I want to write.
Margot McGovern
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book so perfectly captures that 'caught-in-between' feeling and the overwhelming sense of infinite possibility that greets us on the cusp of adulthood. Love, love, LOVED it! ...more
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
A delightful, gentle novel that perfectly captures the on-the-fence feeling of finishing high school and wondering about the future.

There is something wholly Australian about this book. Set in a small town in Victoria, the main character's experiences were only slightly different to my own, and I appreciated the level of detail that went into building up a fully realised picture of the setting.

I did wonder how easily this book would translate for readers not familiar with Australian slang, scho
Trigger warnings: mental health. I think that's all?

2.5 stars.

I'd heard really good things about this book, so when we got a copy in at work, I picked it up immediately. And there were definitely elements about it that I really liked. The family dynamic was fabulous. The voice was great and felt authentically teenaged. The slightly claustrophobic feeling of an Australian small town was well done.


This basically doesn't have a plot. Like, it's about a teenage girl who drops out of high sch
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Quite an enjoyable book to read. Very comfy writing style. Loved the characters and the discussion generated by the book.

There is a lot of pressure put on students during their last years of schooling. Seventeen-year-old Adelaide has high expectations put on her from friends, family and her boarding school. When you want something how do you go about to get it? Thought provoking read.
Gabrielle Reid
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
A slow burn coming-of-age novel that focuses on an often left-out aspect of YA: not KNOWING what you want to do with your future (I feel like this is a really common thing for teenagers, but authors are constantly told that characters have to have a goal to be interesting). I found pretty much all of the characters likeable and I always enjoy a small town setting. In the end I did feel it was a little too slow, and I wanted Addie to change more over the course of the book, develop a passion or l ...more
Kellie Hoffman
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an enjoyable read. I wanted to read this because my two children are currently in years 11 & 12 and grappling with decisions relating to their future. It’s not an easy time if you don’t know where you want to head. Reading this could definitely help, if only to reassure them that they are not alone with their stresses and fears. The characters are believable and the issues they are dealing with are real. The mother’s reactions to things are admirable (I was paying close attention to her ...more
Julie Garner
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
What I liked about this book is that it is set in the real world, in country Victoria. It is about a young girl who does well and escapes from her small country town. It is about a young girl who struggles at her boarding school due to all the pressure that is placed on her to succeed so she runs away, straight back to the country town she escaped from.
I think that the author has gotten in to that mindset of today's kids who are completing Year 12 and looks at the pressures that they are under,
Giselle A Nguyen
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Classic YA in the best possible way. These characters are full of heart and the writing is so careful, loving and warm. I liked all the references to literature and music, too. This charming novel captures the confusion of being on the precipice of adulthood perfectly. I couldn’t put it down.
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
This was a cute book... easy to read I definitely enjoyed it.
Jun 03, 2021 rated it liked it
Really liked the MC and the writing style but something was just missing. Needed more..something. Follow for more quality, in depth reviews.
Reannon Bowen
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars because small town stories set in Australia are my kinda books
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am obsessed with this book!
I grew up in country Victoria, and SURPRISE it turns out I really connect with contemporary YA with rural Aussie setting - who would have guessed ha
In this one I thought that the characters and events felt super realistic, and I LOVED the mum (like, seriously, I want to be like that mum!)
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Such a sweet story of getting a little lost on the way to one's future. Adelaide is trying to find her way through final year of school (after dropping out then continuing by correspondence) and figure out what to do with her life. An awesome cast of supporting characters stick by her along the way, every one of them beautifully realised.

A must read Aus YA.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: got-it, book-club
This book was so so sweet. I want to call it a coming-of-age but it was more of a coming-to-a-realisation or a coming-to-an-undoing kind of book.

Adelaide Longley has always been told she’s the smartest kid in town. Treated as the golden child of her rural Victorian hometown, she is on her way to achieving top exam scores, getting into law or politics at Melbourne and fulfilling every expectation thrust upon her.
That is until she wakes up one morning and walks straight out of her fancy shmancy c
This was inoffensive, but didn't entirely capture my attention, either. I also didn't feel that the story took me - or Adelaide - anywhere. By the end of the book, the only thing she'd gained was a boyfriend. I understand that she's only 17 and has her whole life ahead of her, that anything could happen (and I imagine this was part of the author's message), but it just feel like nothing happened or changed... Okay, but not amazing. ...more
Marie Davies
A character-driven book that leaves you feeling charmed and hopeful. O’Donnell interweaves the themes of first love and friendship in a unique way. And how many of us have felt pushed into doing something just because it’s ‘the best thing for you to do for your future’. Delightful and endearing. Glad I finally made time to read it.
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I grew up in the first golden age of Australian YA literature (i.e. the 90s) and have worked as a bookseller since I was fourteen, when I got my start packing school booklists through hot summers in the agricultural & livestock sheds at the Geelong Showgrounds. (Do I still imagine this place as the Wirrawee setting for Tomorrow, When the War Began? Why, yes, yes I do.)

I am a writer, editor, and ch

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“We were so loud against the sounds of the bush. It was fantastic.” 1 likes
“This moment felt significant so I lay there and tried to breathe it in, to suck it down and store it. It felt important. I felt swelled with it.” 1 likes
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