Saving Francesca by MELINA MARCHETTA
Reading level: Young Adult
"This morning, my mother didn't get out of bed." So begins the saga of Francesca Spinelli, the hilarious and achingly real creation of Aussie author Melina Marchetta. Francesca used to think her biggest problem was transferring to St. Sebastian's--a school only recently turned coed: "What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls? But the reality is that it's either like living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist."
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But now there's this matter of her usually vibrant and annoyingly optimistic mother Mia refusing to get up in the morning. Her taciturn father doesn't have much to say on the subject, her beloved little brother Luca is anxiously looking to her for answers, and her so-called friends from her old neighborhood seem to have abandoned her. So, Francesca keeps it all inside--her frustration with school (there aren't enough girl's bathrooms and no girl's sports teams); her fear making new friends (with the few girls who do go to St. Sebastian's); and her overwhelming hatred of the smug Will Trombal, who despite being completely infuriating, is also incredibly cute. Keeping this to herself when all she wants to do is spill it to her mother is killing Francesca, but with Mia trying to make herself well again, Francesca will have to figure out how to save herself.
What makes Saving Francesca an exceptional standout in a vast field of mediocre teen chick lit is Frankie's painfully nuanced characterization. It has been ten years since high school teacher Marchetta's break out hit, Looking for Alibrandi, came out in her native Australia, and the care and precision she took in getting Francesca's voice just right is evident. As a result, there isn't a girl alive that wouldn't feel right at home in Francesca's skin. Her frank observations about boys, with their hygienically-challenged habits and their ineptitude in dealing with the opposite sex, are dead-on and riotously funny. Marchetta deftly balances Francesca's humor with a sympathetic depiction of Mia's struggle with clinical depression, creating a well-rounded novel that will prompt both laughter and tears. Fans can only hope that they won't have to wait another decade for Marchetta to gift them with another of honest and moving story.