This is one of those books you keep returning to like an old friend. I've re-read Saving Francesca countless times and I hope this review won't turn into an all round Melina Marchetta adoration fest (I'll save that for later when you've been properly seduced by my tragic English).
What it's about:
Saving Francesca is about a 16-year old girl who fights all the time with her mom, Mia. Her mom is a communications lecturer at the university and challenges her family daily, much to Francesca's annoyance. She wishes that her mother would just let her be and not constantly tell her who she is. She hates the co-ed school, St. Sebastian, her mother picked out and describes it as follows.
"St. Sebastian's pretends it's co-ed by giving us our own toilet. The rest of the place is all male and I know what you're thinking if you're a girl. 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 fishbowl or like you don't exist."
Since going to the new school she hasn't made any new friends and misses her old ones. One of the girls, Tara Finke, who is an ultra feminist and activist tries to make a change and forces Francesca to make the girls' case to the House leader, William Trombal. Will is a smug strait-laced A-student with big ambitions who happens to look really interesting.
But then her mother doesn't come out of her bed one morning. Francesca doesn't know what to do and her father pretends there's nothing wrong. She doesn't know what to do and feels lost. Will Francesca be able to save herself?
What I love about this book are the characters. They feel so as if though they really exist. Even the secondary ones are well drawn and Marchetta never resorts to stereo types. They all have their own problems and are far from perfect but that's what makes them real. The central theme is family and the importance of having people who care about you. Mia is essential and without her the entire family is in crisis. While Francesca and her mother fight a lot you also feel how much they love each other and how close their bond is. In the course of the book she slowly starts opening up to the people around her and starts making friends with the people she previously put in a box and made fun of. They seem like real friends who are even there during the good and the bad times. They are relatable and fun. Did I mention that? This book is very funny. Francesca's sarcastic and makes really funny observations of the people around her. Her love interest isn't perfect either and while he makes bad choices, you really feel for him (although sometimes you want to smack him for being slightly clueless). In the end this book just feels exactly right and I hope you'll love her too. I think Marchetta puts the bar for Young-Adult writers very high and Saving Francesca is a prime example of that.
You should read this book because it's honest, funny, sometimes painful. In the end it's all about love and the family that binds us together.
"I think we're made up of all these different pieces and every time someone goes, you're left with less of yourself.”
“Comfort zones are overrated. They make you lazy.”
“Memory is a funny thing. It tricks you into believing that you've forgotten important moments, and then when you're raking your brain for a bit of information that might make sens of something else, it taps you on the head an says, "Remember when you told me to put that memory in the green rubbish bin? Well, I didn't, I put it in the black recycling tub, and it's coming your way again.”