Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: Dec 18, 2007 (first published 2003)
Find On: Goodreads | The Book Depository
Melina Marchetta writes like a god, there’s no denying it. Having read both On the Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock, I knew with near certainty that Saving Francesca would be just as spectacular as those books. How does she do it? I have never been so in awe of a writer’s writing before, but Melina Marchetta does not disappoint. Every single time I read something by her, I find myself sinking into each page, becoming lost among her poignant, humorous, and unequivocally real sentences. I want her to write hundreds and hundreds of books, to never stop writing, because there really should be more books like hers in the world.
Saving Francesca is a remarkable story that I will treasure and remember for a long time. Francesca, our protagonist, is a girl stuck at a boy’s school, with her old friends slipping away from her, and her new ones proving to be a mismatched, antagonistic bunch. There is Tara Finke the 'resident psycho, full of feminist, communist, anythingist rhetoric', Siobhan Sullivan, supposedly 'the biggest slut in the whole wide world', and Justine Kalinsky, the geeky accordion player who wants people to see her as their ‘rock’. Then there are the boys, Thomas Mackee, who happens to have a noteworthy flair for burping 'Teenage Dirtbag', Jimmy Hailler, the boy who invites himself round for dinner, and Will Trombal, the final member of six-people-I-most-want-to-be-friends-with.
Without a doubt, the characters and their relationships are what makes this gem shine so brightly. From Thomas making me laugh when he calls Francesca’s nonno 'no-no' to Jimmy Hailler proving even strange boys like himself can offer much needed friendship, I found myself appreciating each and every quality of the characters. It’s extraordinary to watch the feelings between them all blossom and grow, to develop into something unmistakably special, that even I, as the reader, felt like these people were everything I wanted and needed without having realised it.
It’s strange that I have taken such a strong shine to this wonderful set of characters, when they are all so flawed and full of numerous unlikable traits. Or perhaps that’s the reason why I did appreciate them so greatly. Melina Marchetta is the master of layered characters and she proves that again in this book. With parents who have both good and bad qualities and friends who are anything but perfect, Saving Francesca merges all the lines between stereotypical and clichéd characters, creating an array of diverse personalities and traits.
It’s so easy to lose yourself in this book, to read it all in one sitting (which I’m certain I would have done had my body not felt the need to shut down during my late night reading session). While Jellicoe Road still remains my favourite of Merchetta’s books, Saving Francesca makes a close second. It has also made me realise I clearly can’t be trusted to decide which books I will read and when as Saving Francesca, I’m ashamed to admit, was not initially in my ‘top priority’ bubble. The whole ‘kicking myself for not having read it sooner’ thing applies here now more than ever. Though mark my word, Froi of the Exiles and The Piper's Son will be working their way up to the top of my list – I feel like I remember why I love reading every time I pick up a Melina Marchetta book.
Rating: 4.5 stars