Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

82434Title: Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
How I got it: I bought it
Click here to buy this book from Amazon

A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship with humor and heart, perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Lauren Myracle.

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and 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 of 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, hersocial life and—hardest of all—herself.

I love this book. I thought it was beautiful and honest and refreshing, because it’s the kind of young adult novel that we don’t see much of anymore; the kind that tackles issues about adolescence without making them seem shallow, the kind that enforces the fact that romance isn’t the only thing that highlights the experience of growing up. Saving Francesca is a realistically moving story of one girl who is seeking out herself while trying to brave all the changes, both big and small, that has suddenly overtaken her life.

Francesca’s mother was diagnosed with acute depression. The once cheerful, loud, and nagging person that Francesca knew was replaced by a quiet, sickly, and sad stranger. Frankie could no longer rely on Mia to tell her who she was or who she ought to be, and though she resented her mother for acting like she knew her better than she knew herself, Frankie was struck by the realization that she needed Mia to guide her towards her self-discovery, because she would be lost otherwise. And now that Mia can no longer do that, Francesca finds herself unsure of who she is. Stuck in a newly co-ed school with only 29 other girls in a sea of boys, Francesca struggles to fit in, to seek some small solace from her troubles at home. Later, she finds herself part of an unlikely friendship, one that would make her old friends from her old school roll their eyes in disgust. She also meets Will Trombal, the irritating boy who occupies her thoughts more often than she would dare to admit.

This was my first time to read about Australian high school system, and at the beginning I was confused, because I thought the setting was in U.K. but all the places sounded wrong. After that mistake was sorted, it all went down smoothly, and I’m really glad for a change of scenery and culture. Francesca’s story was something that truly resonated deep inside me. I thought it was depicted in a very realistic way, and now I understand why a lot of people are in-love with Melina Marchetta.

Some books have lots of characters in them that it feels as though there are no more spaces for significant character development. Some get shoved in the very back of the story, reduced from actual participating person to a mere background noise. I hate it when that happens in a book, because I feel like it’s such a terrible waste, to put that person in there and to not let their story be told: it’s kind of unfair. But I didn’t have that problem with Melina Marchetta. In this way, she is like Karina Halle, although they write different genres. They both put forth characters that are multi-dimensional, with serious depths and appropriate reactions. They don’t just move along with the story like pieces of garbage in the flood; they make the story, they are the story, the story is them.

There are no ethereally beautiful or inhumanly handsome characters in this book, just like there are none of them in real, day-to-day life. The boys from St. Sebastian behave like your usual boys; kind of messy, a bit smelly, sometimes arrogant, can be nice. I think the word for it is authentic, and this applies to the girls as well. In fact, if I were to speak personally, I would say that Saving Francesca is the book that came closest to describing my high school experience if compared to all the other high school books I’ve ever read, and that’s kind of a lot.

I also really, really liked how Marchetta tackled the subject of friendship. When I was in high-school, I was part of a small clique of girls I have nothing in common with. That I have nothing in common with them was a realization that came to me years later, when it was already way too late to change things. At some point in our lives, we all wanted to fit in, to be part of something to the point where we would make ourselves be smaller than we actually are just to be included. Francesca was the same. She had a larger than life personality which she subdued because it was frowned upon by her former friends. This is an issue many people had to deal with in the name of ‘fitting in’. Melina Marchetta is telling us something using this book, and that is to never to let anyone steal your shine, because you are your own person and you should revel in your individuality. I wish so much that I could have read this book back when I was struggling to tone down my normally passionate self just so no one would call me ‘show-off’ or ‘over-acting’, because then I wouldn’t have never let anyone steal my shine. I would have revelled in my individuality, because real friends would still love you even if you weren’t anything like them.

Saving Francesca is a book I so greatly enjoyed, but more than that, it’s a book that taught me a lot. About mothers and daughters and how nothing, not even an emotionally debilitating illness could ever severe that bond. About friendship that celebrates the unique qualities of every person in it. About love that doesn’t hurry and doesn’t have to occupy the biggest space of all. And about finding one’s self, which isn’t an easy feat to accomplish, but is easier when you surround yourself with people who care for you.

I give this book five coconuts, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who loves to read. ♥



4 thoughts on “Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

  1. Tanya says:

    “..they make the story, they are the story, the story is them.” YES. That’s exactly how I feel about the characters Marchetta creates.
    Saving Francesca was my first ever Marchetta read – and there aren’t a lot of books that I’d claim changed my life – but Marchetta managed to do it twice. With this one, and Jellicoe Road. She manages to resonate with your very core (see? I have no idea how to speak coherently when it comes to her) and you can’t help but love her writing.

    If you haven’t read Jellicoe Road already, I’d highly recommend it. :)

    • Tara Ho says:

      I actually have Jellicoe Road on my To-Read list but I’m terrified to start it because apparently, it made a lot of people cry. I’m really hesitant when books are emotional so I’m putting it off for a little bit. But Marchetta is really good, aaah! Now I get why lots of people seem to bow down on her feet. XD

      Thanks for dropping by, Tanya! I’ll tell you when I’ve managed to gather enough courage to start reading Jellicoe Road, haha.

      • Tanya says:

        Honestly? Saving Francesca made me cry hysterically – a lot more than Jellicoe Road did. But, yes. That one’s a doozy.

        Please do. :) I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

      • Tara Ho says:

        Oh, jeez. Saving Francesca touched me but I wasn’t reduced to tears. There’s probably something wrong with me, haha! XD

        Anyway, I will! I’m moving it up on my to read list, so I might get to it real soon. :)

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