1 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane follows the story of Natalie Chapman’s sixteenth year as she deals with her stepfather, weak mother, and budding love interest. She lives in Australia and is a fourth Aborigine; this becomes an important plot point as she faces racism from both inside and outside her family.
There were many things about this book that I did not like. From a stylistic point of view, it annoys me that all dialogue was in commas rather than quotation marks. From a character stand point, the characterization is weak and falls into typical tropes: evil stepfather, rebellious young teen, mother who is weak and stays with this man regardless, and many characterizations were mentioned for no real purpose. Linnane makes a point to say that Chapman’s little sister is especially naughty and cruel, but this is forgiven and forgotten halfway through the piece with no real resolution. Chapman somehow feels no guilt whatsoever about having an affair with the husband of someone she is close to, which I found ridiculous. I also found it ridiculous that plot points did not seem to have a purpose most of the time. There are examples of this, but a long drawn-out conversation with her grandfather comes to mind, because it did not need to be there. We did not need to know that information as an audience about Chapman’s grandmother and father, and it was irritating that she spent so much time focusing on that chapter and so little time focusing on action points. About halfway through, there was a shift and Linnane obviously felt rushed to finish.
I liked that her dialogue spoke of the people and Australia. She kept true to setting and little things that she noted like kangaroos and certain plants. I really appreciated this.
I give this book a 1 out of 4. The characterization felt weak to me, plot points were brought up without purpose, and the rush of certain sections did not follow the flow of the book. The use of vocabulary was obnoxious at most times, because it could not be justified. There is no reason to use the word “heterogeneous” outside of a classroom. But the thing I truly appreciated was that her dialogue clearly articulates the Australian way of talking. This was appropriate and appreciated.
Ironbark Hill is good for anyone that wants to see a stereotypical teen be strong and argue with people. It’s for anyone that hopes to see themselves reflected in what they are reading. But this book is not serious literature, and the author seriously needs to put down her thesaurus.
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