4 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill is about a girl’s struggle growing up in a low-income household that’s being made worse by her alcoholic stepfather. Natalie is not only just turning sixteen and going through teenage stress, but she also takes on multiple responsibilities around the house. She looks over her slow brother, keeps her two sisters from fighting too terribly, and stands up to her stepfather in any way she can for everyone’s sakes. Not only these, but she also holds a job, tries to find time for her painting passion, and takes care of her beloved pet. She has people she cares about at work, and one person in particular that she’s more than just friendly with. Handling all of that is quite the balancing act, between home life, personal troubles, financial struggles, and work complications.
What I liked most about this book was the immersion. I really felt connected to the main character because of the more common and everyday language fitting for the setting and time; it’s written more naturally than literarily. I thought the order of events was extremely well planned because everything flowed together and fit in just right. There were no standstills or awkward moments for the reader to trudge through. I really enjoyed how the story was really a series of flashbacks, retold by an aged Natalie. While reading I would completely forget this, and the epilogue tied it together so nicely. It was especially nice when I reread the beginning because I noticed those elements more than the first time I read it through.
Finding a complaint about this book is difficult. If I had to name something, I would say to maybe have more events and character development surrounding Natalie’s family. I’d like to know more about her brother as well as how her family dynamic was when her stepfather first came into the fold. I would like to know more about Natalie’s mother’s relationship progression with her stepfather, as well as more of his history. More about his upbringing as well as his views of the world would be interesting; this could be a great tool for making the reader dislike him as the antagonist even more than they already would.
Another topic that could’ve been expanded on was Natalie and her boss’ relationship. Some past information as well as current character development would’ve helped and added some finishing touches to the overall book. It’s all tidied up at the end, but I would like to know more about how that worked out. The parties involved and the sensitive topics make for complicated reactions and conclusions, but I think they would be worth including. This could either fit into the story as another plot point to add to her stepfather’s conflict, or it could also just be added to the epilogue. I think the book is still great even without these details, but those are my few and simple ideas to better the story.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think that just about anyone would also enjoy reading this book. It’s easy to understand while still having deep and important topics and meanings. This allows it to be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups; even if a younger audience didn’t see the more mature elements, I think the book still stands on its own. Readers that may not like this book as much would be fans of more extreme fantasy genres. I found this book to seem professionally edited as I didn’t find any errors. I would strongly recommend Ironbark Hill to anyone looking for a great read.
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