Mooney River Alice woodland
book review

Book Review: Mooney River

MOONEY RIVER by Alice Woodland is an entertaining small-town story filled with enthusiasm, angst, and young sweet love. Check out what Tomi Alo has to say in her book review of this indie YA novel.

Book Review: Mooney River

Reviewed by Tomi Alo

An entertaining YA debut that follows four members of an eco-club as they take a stand for their environment

Mooney River High School is a place where everyone knows everyone. In a small-town school like Mooney River High, it is hard to just disappear in the background if you do not fit into the pre-existing groups (the surfer kids and the farmer kids). This is a place where your reputation “is fixed within a few hours of enrollment, never to be forgotten.”

Rain Douglass, a year-eleven student, is one of the few kids in between the pre-existing groups and has been labeled “That Spooky Loser” since she joined two years ago. Struggling to fit in, Rain mostly keeps to herself and spends most of her time between her Pop’s house and her foster home. 

So when her Literature teacher, Miss K, calls on her and another student to be the founders of the new eco-club for their school, Rain begrudgingly agrees, but only with the plan of dropping out once the club fully takes off. Before that happens, Rain has to work alongside Eleanor “Nelly,” a determined perfectionist; Erik, Nelly’s twin brother and Mooney River High golden boy; and Thatcher, the twins’ loud and messy best friend.

As the new members work together to get their club off the ground and protect their town from a mega-cooperation threatening their local environment, life changes in the form of unexpected friendships and young love.

Alice Woodland’s Mooney River is a sweet character-driven story that unspools the lives of four teens helping each other through challenges. The book is set in an atmospheric Australia with all the Australian slang you could ask for. There is a fair amount of swear words in the book to note for younger audiences. Woodland’s writing style is pleasant with an easy-to-understand narrative and a flow smoothly leading from one part to the next without ever getting confusing.

The book is divided into nine parts, with each part told from a different perspective—Rain, Nelly, Erik, and Thatch. The reader is presented with a unique point of view from each member, providing a deeper understanding of their personalities, thoughts, and vulnerabilities.

The character development does not always move forward too evenly though. I would have loved a bit more room for growth and development with all of them, particularly Thatcher. His role as the supportive friend—even though he remains the loud, careless one throughout—is helpful for the other characters’ development, but he remains somewhat stagnant. Rain’s mother is also only briefly touched on despite being a large influence on her life. We aren’t given too much information on why Rain had to move 24 times before coming to Mooney River either, and I’m curious as to why she couldn’t have been given to her grandfather rather than to foster care.

I enjoyed reading Mooney River though. It’s certainly not a book I’ll forget in a hurry. Most of the lead characters are endearing and funny. Even without too big of an overarching plot, it never feels slow or tedious and things really ramp up toward the end. 

If you or your teen is looking for an entertaining small-town story filled with enthusiasm, angst, and young sweet love, Mooney River would be a great choice for you.

Genre: Young Adult / Romance

Print Length: 390 pages

ISBN: 978-0645544107

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