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The Unexpected Mess of It All (Gabrielle Tozer, HarperCollins)

Gold Inky award-winning author Gabrielle Tozer’s fifth YA novel, The Unexpected Mess of it All, displays her trademark empathy, humour and cheekiness. Jamila’s life is an unexpected mess. Since their house burned down, her family has been living in a caravan on the property of her ex-best friend, Billy Radcliffe. The only people who understand her are the online community she’s created through her vlog Jam and Scream. When her nemesis (and Billy’s ex-girlfriend) Grace shares Jamila and Billy’s private letters with the rest of Year 12, Jamila ends up in a physical altercation with Grace and at the centre of high school gossip. Grounded and with her phone confiscated, Jamila is stuck with Billy and their former friend Daphne at their families’ annual holiday park trip on the weekend of the biggest party of the year. It is a joy to see the transformation in Jamila as she learns to take herself less seriously and jump into the mess of life, from performing as a fairy to bring joy to children to making a huge scene at the party to take away the negative attention on Billy. The book is described by the publisher as an ‘enemies-to-will-they-won’t-they’ romance, and the banter and dynamic between Jamila and Billy will appeal to readers aged 14+ and fans of Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper.

Books+Publishing reviewer: Ilona Urquhart has a PhD in Literary Studies and currently works as a Children’s and Youth Services Librarian on the Bellarine Peninsula. She is Judge for the 2024-2025 CBCA Book of the Year Award, Younger Readers Category. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.


Category: Friday Unlocked reviews Reviews