Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

saving francesca

Book Summary

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, along, 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.

Review: 5 out of 5 Stars

It’s official – Melina Marchetta is a must read author for me. While this book was so different from and less grand than my beloved On the Jellicoe Road, it was its own breed of perfect.

This novel centers on Francesca, a high school junior who is starting a new school and will be one of only 35 girls in an all-boys school. It starts on the first day of her mother’s nervous breakdown and follows her throughout this year as she has to face (and find?) certain truths about herself and her family.

I actually don’t think the Goodreads (or my) summary do this story justice.  It is about high school and friends and boys and family, but it’s somehow about more than that as well.  I called it less grand than Jellicoe Road, and it is, but it also tackles some tough concepts really well – mental illness and the stigma surrounding it being the mostly obvious example. I thought Marchetta’s treatment of this subject was just so good; she managed to incorporate both some great reactions and terrible reactions to the mother’s breakdown, in a totally non-judgmental way.

I also thought the relationship development was spot on.  It develops organically and in a way that makes you remember your own first serious love interest and all the butterflies that came along. And the beautiful writing on friendships and how important finding a group of true friends is to your life was just perfect.  There was bickering and misunderstandings and gossip and just pure love and it was amazing.

But what this author does as well as or better than almost anyone else I’ve read lately is she just writes teenagers perfectly (and, thus, painfully sometimes). Francesca here is discovering some important things about her family and herself and who she can be, and Marchetta writes that moment of self-discovery and all the turmoil that comes with it just perfectly.

In fact, what I love about YA – and what I think Marchetta did so well here – is that really good YA focuses on a really tough point in a person’s life where she (or he) is really choosing what kind of person to be. The late teen years are tumultuous at best and really great writers can make so much out of that time in life – whether set in a contemporary, or dystopian, or yes, even well written paranormal romance setting. I think that what really good YA does is gives teen readers permission to feel, to find inner strength, to fight the odds, to see themselves in someone who is not many years older. Do I think a great deal of it has to do with marketing choices? Of course. But I do think it’s about more than that.

And since everyone has at one point been a teenager and remembers those turning points, I think YA has the ability to really speak to readers of all ages. This novel, particularly, is just a great example of pinpointing that moment when you start finding a glimpse of your true self.  I thought it was just beautiful.

I loved this novel and I cannot wait to get my hands on more Marchetta immediately.

Bottom Line

I absolutely love both this novel and this author.  If you’ve been shying away from contemporary YA, I recommend you dig in to some Marchetta.  You won’t look back.

Bout of Books 9.0 Readathon: Sign-up and Goals

Bout of Books

I have been having a great 2014 reading-wise thus far and I want to keep the train going with my first Bout of Books participation!  For those that don’t know, here’s the official Bout of Books description:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Goals

I think for this readathon I will be focusing on shorter novels, in order to feel some sense of accomplishment in what I am able to read in a week.  That said, I do have some books from the library that are about to be due back and a few more coming soon that I know I’ll want to get to ASAP, so I need to clear that TBR pile quickly!  I would like to read at least 5 novels during the readathon.

I am going to choose from this stack of books, but reserve the right to add any that come in from my hold list!

rose under fire saving francesca rising asia jepp white night etiquette

Updates

Monday, January 6:

  • Pages Read Today: 420 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 1
  • Thoughts: Today I completed Jepp, Who Defies the Stars by Katherine Marsh – 384 pages – (review to come) and thought it was a very interesting read.  I also started up on Earth Abides by George R. Stewart – 345 pages, which is a February book club read.  That one is on my Kindle, so my pages are estimated, but I made it about 10% of the way through.

Tuesday, January 7:

  • Pages Read Today: 370 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 2
  • Thoughts: Today I completed How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid – 230 pages – (review to come).  I enjoyed this one very much, even though it was pretty far outside my normal reads.  I picked it up on a recommendation from John Green’s Twitter and was not disappointed. I also got to about 50% complete with Earth Abides.  I would probably have been able to get a bit further today, but both my son and husband are knocked out with the flu, so I had a ton of running around to do today.

Wednesday, January 8:

  • Pages Read Today: 345 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 3
  • Thoughts: Today I completed Earth Abides.  I likely will not review this one, but generally I did not really enjoy it. It was an older novel basically about the end of civilization as we know it following a disease sweeping the world and killing off most people.  For me, it just didn’t hold up. There were too many offensive, older ways of thinking included and I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I also started Immortal In Death by J.D. Robb, which is the third in the In Death series, and got about 50% of the way through.  Also, I broke 1,000 pages today!  Hoorah!

Thursday, January 9:

  • Pages Read Today: 738
  • Total Books Completed: 6
  • Thoughts: Ok, I kind of went reading crazy yesterday.  I finished three books – the last 50% of Immortal In Death, all of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, and  Entwined by Elizabeth Naughton.  I think it is mostly because Saving Francesca was such a good book, I just flew through it.  But also partially because I just could not sleep!  Either way, who is going to complain about more reading!  But that means I’m upping my goal to 8 books for the readathon.

Friday, January 10:

  • Pages Read Today: 25
  • Total Books Completed: 6
  • Thoughts: I guess I was a little burnt out after yesterday because I barely read at all! I just started White Night which is the 9th book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. And that was about it! I still feel good about where I am, but that 8 book goal looks slightly out of reach now.  We shall see!

Saturday, January 11:

  • Pages Read Today: 382
  • Total Books Completed: 7
  • Thoughts: Ok! Back on track!  I finished up White Night and really loved it.  The Dresden Files books just keep getting better.  If you are at all interested in urban fantasy and somehow have missed this series, I highly urge you to correct this and power through the first three books.  It is all worth it!  This brings my pages total to 2,280 and 7 books read for the week.  If this is the end of what I achieve, I am still SO thrilled! Plus, they have mostly been great books.  Such an excellent week!

Sunday, January 12:

  • Pages Read Today: 559+ a graphic novel (not counting those pages)
  • Total Books Completed: 9.5, including the graphic novel
  • Thoughts: Today I needed a bit of a brain break, so I started out with Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff.  This was a fun adventure story graphic novel with a great female main character.  Highly recommended – gorgeous art, fun story, I want more!  Then I settled down and powered through Winger by Andrew Smith. When I first saw this novel, I thought no way would I be able to finish it in one day.  But I just could NOT put it down!  Such a great read.  And then I read the first half of Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb, which is the fourth book in the In Death series.

Wrap Up

I had such an excellent time in my first Bout of Books!  I managed to read 4/6 of the books I started out wanting to read.  I read 9.5 novels and managed to power through 2,839 pages, plus the graphic novel.  I fully participated in two of the chats and at least stopped by to say hi in the third.  I didn’t get to comment on as many blogs as I wanted, or participate in the challenges.  That will definitely be part of my goals for next time.  All in all, I was so thrilled with how this readathon went and will DEFINITELY be looking for more very soon!