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. ♥