Synopsis from Goodreads.
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 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 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.
But I’m a noun.
A nothing. A nobody. A no one.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Gorgeous. The perfect ending.
Melina Marchetta- if you’ve read anything she’s written you’ll understand. Australia. Close family. Ethnicity. The power of girls vs Ridiculous boys. Finding your own way. Mental illness, this subject is a really important one for me and I really respect authors who write about this ‘taboo’ with honesty and understanding.
I have a theory that Melina Marchetta novels are like Guy Ritchie films.
Bear with me, I do have a point, I promise.
Whenever Mr Ritchie is mentioned my friend and I always argue as to which film of his we prefer out of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrelsand Snatch. I’m team Lock Stock and she’s team Snatch. After our arguments that seem to turn into a huge ‘Who can out quote who while putting on ridiculous Vinnie Jones/Jason Stayyyfffham-esque accents?’ sparring matches, we realised that neither of us were right… or we were both right.
Our favourite would always be the one we watched first.
(Don’t even get me started on what happened when Sherlock Holmes came out… phew, things got confusing)
And this is where we get back to Ms Marchetta who has been patiently waiting for me to get to my point. I think if I’d read Saving Francesca before Jellicoe Road, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But because Jellicoe Road was just perfection…. Saving Francesca paled in comparison. So that’s not to say that SF is a bad book, because I still loved it and it’s one of my favourite reads of 2011, but it’s not Jellicoe.
Jellicoe is my Lock Stock.
After I had pledged my unwavering allegiance to Taylor Markham, I wasn’t sure how Francesca was going to compare. I didn’t need to worry because, even if we did have a rocky start, she eventually won me over and I am officially extending my invitation to the League of Soul Sisters. I think the reason why I wasn’t completely besotted with Francesca from page one is because it’s easy to forget, when reading lots of YA books that are full of perky girls who only have problems that involve boys and best friends, that teenage girls aren’t like that in real life. And what I loved about Francesca, and all of Marchetta’s character for that matter, is that they are so realistic it’s like reading someone’s diary.
In the first few chapters of the book, Francesca is quiet, observant and a bit
of bitch mean but, by setting her up in this way, Marchetta allows the reader to see her develop into a strong woman who is no longer stuffed into the boxes that her ‘friends’ put her in.
Francesca has to deal with so much and has to live two different lives, home and school, and she finds it exhausting, frustrating and unfair. I found the relationship between her and her mother so captivating and the overwhelming loneliness that Francesca felt was so perfectly executed that my heart ached. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of mental illness that I have read in any book, not just YA.
But all the while this is going on and the whole Will situation and her old ‘friends’ being complete bitches, Francesca never gives up and that is what I love most about her.
Also, I LOVED her observations on things. She’s got this wickedly dry sense of humour that I simply adored and there were so many times when I was reading it and I found myself nodding along to the things she was saying. I honestly think Marchetta is tuned directly into my mind… um, I mean… my seventeen year old mind. Because everything she says is spot on.
Eh. I didn’t like William… but I’m not entirely sure I was supposed to. He was cute and I’m a sucker for the whole “Ugh, I hate you and I can’t stand you….but wait…no…what’s happening? It’s not hate that’s burning in my heart/loins…. It’s love!” thing. And even though he got better in the end, like Francesca’s surrogate big sister, I couldn’t help muttering under my breath when he swaggered onto the page.
BUT…. That ending?! Oh Francesca, I just wanted to high five you. That was perfect. So so perfect.
Anyway enough about Francesca… let’s talk about me. Thomas Mackee. Yes please. He’s another one who deserves the prestigious ‘Logan Echolls Award for Boys Who Are Outwardly Obnoxious and Oddly Attractive but Inwardly Tortured and Sensitive’ (I need to find a better title for that award… the trophy would be huge) along with Alpha . After I finished reading this book I couldn’t help but think… ‘Gosh, I wish we’d got to see more of him and found out why he was tortured and sensitive’. So imagine my delight when I discovered this.
A faster online-buy does not exist.
Major love has to go out for Justine, Tara and Siobhan. Even though these girls are so completely different and have their own stories and backgrounds they are still there for each other, with no judgement.
“….but I look at the others’ faces. All of them glued to the screen, a dreamy look on their faces. A hint of a smile on their lips. A sense of hope. They’re all the same. Cynical Tara, couldn’t-give-a-shit Siobhan, romantic Justine. And I want to cry. Because my face looks just like theirs and I haven’t felt like anyone else since I was in Year Seven.”
OK, Francesca You have no one to blame for this song choice but yourself. “…some woman named Kate Bush”. Pffft. She is my absolute idol. How can you not adore her?!
Anyway, this song is my joint favourite song from the goddess that is Kate Bush (along with this and, of course, this) and even though the main reason I am choosing this is because
I feel compelled to educate a fictional character she was mentioned, I also think this song perfectly encapsulates the feeling of helplessness Francesca feels when trying to deal with the complex emotions that mental illness brings to light.
8/10. The main theme in this book is the effect of mental illness on a family and all the emotions that come with it. Confusion. Grief. Anger. Guilt. Frustration. The chapters that focus on the relationship between Francesca and her mother are shocking and they are difficult to read, even if you have no experience with mental illness. But you can tell they aren’t just written for shock-value, they have been well-researched and are told with raw honesty.
There is also legitimate and deserved boy angst but, like I said, I don’t care much for Will. So he doesn’t count.
This book is all about Francesca.
Fans of Melina Marchetta. People who want to see mental illness explored truthfully and not dumbed-down for fear people will be too shocked. People who have always wanted to dance when the teacher puts on music in P.E and looks at you expectantly but don’t because you fear you will be eternally mocked. Single girls who only talk to boys in relationships to steal them away from their girlfriends because… um, that’s the only reason why you talk to boys in relationships right? People who have always wanted to tell their ‘friends’ to shove it when they can’t let the one time you actually had fun. People who have Harry Potter pyjamas and pretend they’re your little brothers even though they’re obviously not. People who appreciate the genius of Sound of Music. People who find Colin Firth’s sideburns endearing and full of spunk. People who prefer Snatch to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. People who, just to prove my Ritchie/Marchetta theory wrong, prefer RocknRolla… or, um, Swept Away.