Saving Francesca
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Saving Francesca

By Melina Marchetta

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Format: Paperback, 243 pages
Published In: United States, 01 May 2006
Before there was Eleanor and Park, there was Francesca and Will. A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship, with humor and heart, perfect for fans of If I Stay, The Spectacular Now, and Looking for Alaska. 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, her social life, and--hardest of all--herself. Melina Marchetta is the Printz-winning author of Jellicoe Road, as well as Looking for Alibrandi and Finnikin of the Rock.

About the Author

Melina Marchetta lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is a teacher. She is also the author of Looking for Alibrandi, which received numerous awards and was released as a major Australian film. Saving Francesca is her second novel.


Gr 9-12-In her second young adult novel, Australian author Melina Marchetta creates a compelling teen girl character conflicted by her mother's deep clinical depression and her own adjustment to a new, previously all boys school. As in Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi (Orchard, 1999), the themes and motifs here include the main character's status as being one generation removed from the immigrant Italian community. Francesca is not only a very believable 16-year-old, but the demands on her given her family's difficulties and her friends' attempts to deal with changes in their social milieu are ones that American teens will understand and empathize with readily. Marchetta sees the vanities of some adults as occasions for humor as well as distrust on the part of insightful teens. Rebecca Macauley's light accent is readily understandable, and she provides a variety of voices for Francesca, her beleaguered father, her little brother, and her female and male friends. There is enough romance here to make the story appealing to those interested more in such relationships than in the equally well-treated complexity of parent and teen relationships. Francesca grows through the story's development from a girl who knows only how to emulate others to one who is willing to admit that she has her own needs and ideas. The print version will be available in the U.S. this fall.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting but not particularly accommodating to girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

-Sparkling dialogue and engaging characters...Francesca's messy, credible array of emotions and problems will keep readers absorbed to the last, satisfying line.---Kirkus Reviews, Starred -A rich exploration of maturation, identity, family, and friendship.- --The Bulletin, Starred -Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself.---Publishers Weekly, Starred -Teens will relate to this tender novel and will take to heart its solid messages and realistic treatment of a very real problem.---School Library Journal, Starred

EAN: 9780375829833
ISBN: 0375829830
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Dimensions: 20.57 x 13.97 x 1.52 centimeters (0.23 kg)
Age Range: 10-14 years
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3 review(s)
All Reviews
Loushane Jones on
This book was so hard to get into. Every time there was the slightest bit of forward momentum, we'd get detailed backstory. I was so sick of going backwards in time that I pitched the book across the room when I got to chapter four. And then forced myself to keep reading since I'd paid for it. Why does the MC have to say people's full name constantly? Ugh!

Why does she sound JUST like the MC from the movie Finding Alibrandi? Why did the MC of this book even say Nonna, instead of Grandma or Nana, just like the MC in Finding Alibrandi? Why is she catholic and Italian, just like her, too? Why is she confident and sarcastic like her? Why does she call her mother by her first name?

Because this MC is a recycled version of the one in Finding Alibrandi. The same voice. The same words. The same attitude problems. Perhaps this is what the author was like as a teen. *shrugs* I tried not to, but the actress who played the lead in Finding Alibrandi became the face of Francesca while I read, due to all these similarities.

Most annoying, however, was that there was no sexual tension between her and the guy she fell for. They kiss and it's the most flat thing I've ever read. She's just so...confident that nothing phases her--it's like she doesn't reaaaally care either way for his kiss, and isn't very attracted to him. Who cares to read that if the MC doesn't care?

Why does this author have an aversion to the word "said"--or, "says," since it's present tense--half the time? Every other dialogue tag is: explodes, confirms, snickers, argues, moans, cries, accuses, muses, orders (just opened the book to get those). And then there's the adverbs WITH dialogue tags: "my dad says a bit coldly." What? I can't picture or hear that that--SHOW me, don't tell me. Perhaps if his eyes squinted for a second we'd get it, but we're rarely shown the character's having facial expressions or actions to guide us toward the WAY they say something.

Actually, rarely was much description given about anything! Setting or what people LOOKED like is left vague, so most scenes were hazy to imagine, reducing my care-factor even more.

If teenage boys spoke as immaturely and stupidly as the one's in this book... Ugh! I hated them! Curious how they know stuff about classic movies, though. One eg: one of these crass stereotypes even knew the title of the movie: "The Boy and the Dolphin", a Sophia Loren (an actress from the 60's) movie. AS IF! Oh, the amount of movies and singers/bands/songs mentioned in this book! It's so honed itself into an era! Kylie Monogue? Really?

To sum up, it was an annoying read about stereotyped 15/16 year olds that I pushed myself through. The MC is redeemed by the so-so ending, but I just didn't care.
Na Be on
I enjoyed this book even though I didn't like "Looking for Alibrandi". This book was much better and more realistic. It's about a girl's difficult Year 11 when her mother is suffering from depression, and how she has to balance a new school, new friends/classmates, family issues, romance attempts and gender differences. It's easy to identify with the conflicts the main character is going through, and she's quite an easy character to sympathise with. As an Australian school student when I read it, I had some issues with how people my age were portrayed, but I suppose it's fair enough for the majority.
Heather Gifford on
this is another great teen read by the author of looking for alibrandi. this book is maybe better than that one, because i found the storyline to be a bit better. good read about a family falling apart, and a poor girl who must go to school with all boys pretty much. good read if you liked the alibrandi book, similar style.

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