Melina Marchetta lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is a teacher. She is also the author of Printz-winning Jellicoe Road, as well as Saving Francesca and Finnikin of the Rock.
Gr 8 Up-Marchetta tackles a lot of difficult issues in this first novel. Her protagonist, a senior at a Catholic girls' school in Australia, is an illegitimate child who meets her father for the first time about 35 pages into the book. By the story's end, the two have established a framework for a continuing relationship. Josephine is also working through some romantic feelings. For several years she has had a crush on the imminently respectable and wonderfully sensitive John, but becomes involved with Jacob, who is more rough and uninhibited. Class strictures, religious and ethnic differences, and the pressure of familial expectations come into play as Jacob pressures Josephine for sex, John commits suicide, and Josephine reassesses her rigid, judgmental grandmother in light of the discoveries she has made about the woman's past. Though Josephine's voice is not quite consistent-generally colloquial, but occasionally almost schoolmarmish-her personality is quite disarming. She's intelligent and outspoken to the point of brazenness. She's also passionately loyal to her mother; thoughtful about Australian society; and capable of understanding, forgiving, and appreciating a wide range of human behavior. Marchetta's strength is in her creation of so many multifaceted characters and her credible depiction of their interactions. This is an impressive debut.-Miriam Lang Budin, Mt. Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Although this involving novel is set in the author's native Australia, American readers will feel right at home, thanks to the charismatic, outspoken narrator, 17-year-old Josephine Alibrandi. A scholarship student at a tony Catholic girls' school, Josie is aware that she is different from her affluent "Aussie" classmates: she's illegitimate, and she's closely tied to her Italian immigrant community. She feels periodically rebellious against her classmates' snobbishness, against the nuns' authority at school, against her community's mores. Even so, Josie clearly regards the women in her lifeÄher single mother, her grandmother and even some of the nunsÄwith affection as well as exasperation. Josie has less experience dealing with guys until senior year, when three members of the opposite sex complicate her world. Her father, who has not previously known of her existence, arrives on the scene unexpectedly, and she can't help feeling drawn to him. She also becomes involved with two boys her own age: the upper-class but desperately unhappy John Barton and the wilder, iconoclastic Jacob Coote. The casting or plot may sound clich‚ed, but the characterizations are unusually insightful and persuasive. In articulate, passionate prose, Marchetta weaves the intricate web of Josephine's relationships, juxtaposing her revelations about her family history against current crises (these include John's suicide). If the author loses momentum at the end, straining for tidy closure, she does, simultaneously, leave open new doorways for her heroine. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)