SAVING FRANCESCA

Melina Marchetta, Author
Melina Marchetta, Author . Knopf $15.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-375-82982-6
Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting—but not particularly accommodating to—girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi ) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

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