Saving Francesca

By Melina Marchetta

From Goodreads: Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, 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 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 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.

Why it’s my type: I have more dog-eared pages on this one than my little standout script section can handle.

I choose those excerpts for various reasons: their wit, humor, poignancy, wisdom, memorability. This is why this one was beyond my type. The amount of times my heart felt near to bursting, for all of these reasons and more, was innumerable (or, more innumerable than I care to painstakingly record). The same goes for the amount of moments I wanted to just close my eyes, shut out all other senses, and let Marchetta’s thoughts (Francesca’s words) sink into me. To really give them their due.

The writing was phenomenal. But more than that, the rhythm, word choice, paragraph structures–they all went deeper than their superficially pleasing constructions. They all came together So many times to really mean something. Even the sideline characters had serious charisma and depth.

By the last fourth of the book, I actually sat back for a moment and thought: I can so clearly comprehend this girl’s progress. And that was an awesome thing to understand.

Francesca felt more like me during high school than any YA character I’ve yet encountered, especially her beginning stages. Thankfully, for her, she began learning how to save herself while in high school, as opposed to after leaving (like I think I did).

Standout Script: Again, much too much to choose from. A drop in the bucket below . . .

“I can tell the teachers don’t like me. I remember the way they used to look at the apathetic girls at St. Stella’s. I think the teachers can even handle the troublemakers, but they hate the slackers and that’s how they see me. ‘Just ask me how I’m feeling,’ I want to say. ‘Just ask and I may tell you.’ But no one does.”

“We watch (Pride and Prejudice) in silence, but I look at the others’ faces. All of them glued to the screen, a dreamy look on their faces. A hint of a smile on their lips. A sense of hope. They’re all the same. Cynical Tara, couldn’t-give-a sh** Siobhan, romantic Justine. And I want to cry. Because my face looks just like theirs and I haven’t felt like anyone else since I was in year seven and Siobhan Sullivan and I did the Macarena in the foyer of the chapel and got lunchtime detention for a week. Justine catches me looking and she smiles, and with tears in my eyes I smile back.”

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s ever been young and felt unsure about who they are. Yes that’s right. Everyone.

Published: 2003 by Penguin Books Australia, then by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

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