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Review of SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta

by Becky Laney

Marchetta, Melina. 2004. SAVING FRANCESCA. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375929827.

This book is just GREAT--it is definitely one of the best of the year. The characters are just so well done--they are characters you can relate to--characters to cheer on--they are characters that you come to care for and you care what happens to them. This is also one of the few teen books where the parents are actually REAL characters that do more than say "no" and misunderstand their son/daughter and ground them when they rebel. It was just refreshing to read such a great book with good language/style, good characterization, and good plot. Just an enjoyable read from cover to cover.
Francesca Spinelli is (16 going on 17) attending St. Sebastian--a formerly all male Catholic school. Her mother has overnight gone from a pushy, bossy, motivated professor to someone who has difficulty even getting out of bed--let alone the house. The effect of her mum's depression (her name is Mia) is devastating on her daughter, son (Luca), and husband (Robert--aka. "Bob the Builder.") Faced with the difficulty of a radically different mother and a new school, Francesca is having a difficult time coping with all the changes in her life. (The school only has 30 girls--and mostly "dumb" boys, who like to burp and fart, rule the school.) Frustrated, she ends up spending most of her days in detention where she is surrounded by dumb boys like Thomas Mackee and Jimmy Hailler--two particularly annoying boys--that in the end become two of her closest chums. Like most teen novels, Francesca is struggling with her own identity--who is she?--she knows she's not the person her mother wants her to be (tells her to be) and she knows that she isn't the person her old friends from her old school thought she was. But she hasn't quite found her place in the universe yet. A great novel of friendship--shows the complex relationships between girls--and between girls and boys. She accidentally falls for Will Trombal--someone who is "smug" with no personality--oh, and he also has a girlfriend.

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