Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.
Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
The story in a nutshell:
Francesca feels like her life is falling apart. She’s now enrolled at St. Sebastian’s, a recently converted co-ed school. She’s got no friends, no close group. And worse, her mom has fallen into acute depression, changing the whole dynamic of their family. She’s struggling to make everything go back to the way they used to be, back when everything felt comfortable, safe, and predictable. But life has other plans for her and now she’s struggling to make everything better than before by saving her family, her social life, and most of all, herself.
What worked for me?
I still love the way Melina Marchetta unravels her story to her readers. I love reading about the different kinds of relationship flow or develop throughout the story. You have a mother who has always been there to the point where the daughter, Francesca, sometimes wish she weren’t hovering so much and then wasn’t like that anymore. You have a family that was once a solid and happy unit and then it’s now falling apart. You have a girl who hates to be in this used-to-be all-boys school and have the life she’s established in her previous school gone and now she’s finding things she loves about her new school. You have people who you would never imagine to bond with each other but then friendships and connections are formed.
I was also very intrigued and impressed by how the author treated the issue of depression and how this affects not just the person who’s experiencing it but the people in his or her life too.
And while the first three quarters are still full of those poignant moments, the last quarter of the book, especially towards the end, just about killed me. It was so great. It was so moving. It was so heart-wrenchingly good. This part had that echo of Jellicoe Road for me and it was a reminder of the talent that is Melina Marchetta.
What did not work for me?
I love Jellicoe Road so much that I think it ruined me for all of Melina’s other books. I will always, even unintentionally, compare all her books to that masterpiece. So I guess it is to the disadvantage of this book that I read it after Jellicoe Road. I was waiting for that ‘wow’ factor much earlier in the book, although I was able to get it towards the end.
My over-all take on it?
I still consider it a poignant and well-written story. I just love reading Melina Marchetta’s way of telling stories: you know it’s fiction but the honest, straightforward, and no-nonsense way that she has with her writing just grabs at you, makes it look and feel like you’re reading real life too. I am going to read through her backlist, I swear. 🙂 Next up, The Piper’s Son.
Plus, she has some great news over at her blog about her latest work-in-progress. I’m so excited!
About the Author:
Melina Marchetta’s novels have been published in eighteen countries and in seventeen languages. Melina’s first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, swept the pool of literary awards for young adult fiction when it was published, winning the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award for Older Readers among many others. It was also released as an award-winning film, winning an AFI Award and an Independent Film Award for best screenplay, as well as the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award.
Melina taught secondary-school English for ten years, during which time she released her second novel Saving Francesca, which won the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Older Readers, followed by On the Jellicoe Road, which won the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2009. Melina’s next novel, Finnikin of the Rock, won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and was followed by The Piper’s Son, the critically acclaimed companion novel to Saving Francesca. Melina has also written a book for younger readers, The Gorgon in the Gully, which was released in 2010. The second book in the Lumatere Chronicles, Froi of the Exiles, was published in 2011 to much international praise. Melina has completed her second screenplay, On the Jellicoe Road, which was chosen to be part of Screen New South Wales Aurora Script Workshop, and she has also written episodes for ABC-TV’s Dance Academy. The final novel in The Lumatere Chronicles, Quintana of Charyn, was released in September 2012. A companion short story to the Lumatere Chronicles, “Ferragost” was published in the Review of Australian Fiction.
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