Pages: 243 (paperback)
Published: 2003 in Australia; 2006 by Knopf in the US
Recommended for: contemp enthusiasts; fans of Jellicoe Road
Francesca Spinelli is one of a few dozen girls at St Sebastian's, a previously all-male high school which has only recently become co-ed. Her so-called friends from her old school, Stella's, have moved on and seem to be thriving apart from her-- swooning over boys and enjoying their last few years of high school. But Francesca finds herself struggling just to make it from day to day: she's lumped in with three 'weird girls' from her old school; is in her eleventh year and has no idea what she wants to do with her life.
Things take a sharp turn for the worse when her mother, who has been a lovable, commandeering tyrant her entire life, refuses to get out of bed one day. She's suffering from depression of unknown causes, and Francesca's family is suffering with her. And then there's that deplorable, snotty-- yet oddly enticing-- Will Trombal, who Francesca can't seem to get out of her head. Even as everybody in Francesca's life seems to be crashing without a wave, she begins to find some solace with her reluctant new friends at St Sebastian's, the nights they spend cruising around or just talking, the music they create together, the stories they swap... but it's the secrets Francesca is hiding from them, and denying to herself, which may be her ultimate downfall if she cannot find a way to rescue her mother and even herself.
That synopsis I've written sounds a little depressing, but really this book was far from it. The pages are filled with quirky humor and lovable characters who are quirkier still. From super-activist, feminist Tara Finke to the obnoxious and musically gifted Tom MacKee, I loved all of Francesca's friends at St Sebastian's. Her old friends at Stella's-- the ones she left behind when her mother forced her to attend St Sebastian's for the 'better opportunities'-- drove me insane, in contrast. They were so shallow, and I couldn't believe Francesca-- who's intelligent enough as well as strong even when she's feeling so down-- longed to be friends with them again.
The characters had the potential, I think, to be cliches, but didn't come across that way at all. The brilliance of Melina Marchetta's seem to be all in the details-- the little things, the little memories. She doesn't just write about characters, she writes about people, about entire lifetimes. I really admire this aspect of her writing, as much as I admire her realistic but hopeful resolutions-- this woman is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors! I've been trying to stagger the pile of her books I have sitting in my room, but I keep moving them up a few books in the stacks. Oops. So right now I'm reading The Piper's Son, which is about Tom MacKee, one of my favorite characters in Saving Francesca. The review for that will be up in about a week. Anyway, another fantastic book by Melina Marchetta, though I didn't adore this one quite as much as Jellicoe Road. It's also a very quick read, so I recommend this to absolutely anyone-- think it would be a good choice for teenage 'reluctant readers'.
Plot: 4/5Overall Rating: 4/5