Monday, March 7, 2011

Review - SAVING FRANCESCA

Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
Genre: YA Fiction by Melina Marchetta*
*Yes, Melina Marchetta's books are such cuts above the rest, they get their own GENRE on my site!
# of pages: 243 (US pb)
Publisher: Knopf, Random House
Recommended for: HS & Beyond

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, 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


Saving Francesca is my third Melina Marchetta novel, and even though I'm glad I read Jellicoe Road first - mainly because of all the subtle in-text similarities between the two - I can't help but wonder if I'd have liked Francesca better if I'd read it first.
First off, I think this book proves that Melina Marchetta is perhaps the *best* (if not certainly one of the best) young adult writers out there. Not only is she a master storyteller and character creator, she's a mighty fine technical writer. Her writing style is lyrical and descriptive but to the point; in other words, very hard to explain in a way that does it any justice, and hard to compare to anyone else.
Marchetta also knows how to create characters. I'm less likely to jump on the "I HEART Flawed Characters!" bandwagon, mainly because I know what I like and what I don't like, personality-wise, in characters. However, Marchetta's characters are undeniably human in that they're flawed, but they also have a soul. They have this aura of hope around them that distinguishes them from a lot of the vapid, melodramatic, TSTL characters that occupy YA fiction. I loved Francesca's narrative: she had this very insightful but precise tone that really resonated with me. I felt for her struggles, too - much of the book deals with unresolved issues with her well-meaning but domineering mother, and what happens when her mother has a depressive episode and pretty much stops functioning. The scenario sounds simple, but as SF shows, there's way more underneath the surface that needs exploring.
I can honestly say that I was engaged with the story from beginning to end.

The pacing isn't quite as fast/action-oriented as in Jellicoe, and to be honest, there were times where it didn't seem like much was happening. I did like that the story devoted more attention to the main character's emotions and relationships with those around her. This didn't really seem to be the case in Jellicoe.
Secondary characters always play a major part in Marchetta books, and the ensemble cast was full of personality and quirkiness that, in my opinion, only Marchetta can bring. However, the characters here seemed less mature than in JR, and that's something that I couldn't help but notice. I kind of crave mature teen characters and kind of rage against the immature ones.
I guess it's the love-aggravate portion in my adventures in YA Lit...
I also couldn't help but think that Frankie & Will's relationship was a bit more complicated than it needed to be...and I'm sorry to say that Will came off as a bit shallow (based on certain decisions he made throughout the book, especially close to the end). The girls, though - especially Tara and Justine - were among my favorite characters here, just bubbling with personality and uniqueness. I loved how important friendship was to the overall story, and there were many times where I got the warm and fuzzys!
Plus...the geography. I loved how much detail Marchetta put into her characters' surroundings, and how informative she was of certain story locations. I'm not from Australia, so it was like a fun geography lesson :P I had the google maps going every time she mentioned a city or suburb!

So all in all...another fine book by a writer who I think is the greatest in the genre. If you haven't read Saving Francesca yet, my suggestion is to make it a priority. If you haven't read SF or Jellicoe Road, my suggestion would be to read Jellicoe first. But I humbly recommend that you read both.

Final Grade:

4 shout-outs!:

The Library Lurker said...

I've been wanting to read this book ever since I read Jellicoe Road, and now I might just have to actually do that! Thanks for posting such an awesome review as encouragment!

Stephanie said...

It's my goal to read all of Melina Marchetta's books. She's such an amazing writer. I agree about how she uses geography in her books. The area in which Jellicoe Road is set wouldn't normally be my favorite climate (I really hate hot weather) but the descriptions of the area around Jellicoe School were so vivid and so authentic, I wanted to hop on a plane and go live there! I'll definitely check out Saving Francesca soon.

Alison said...

Great review! I loved this book. It's not as complex as Jellicoe Road but still has a lot of the same characteristics. I agree that sometimes not a lot was going on. I think that's because character development is a lot more important to her books than plot. Like you said, the secondary characters were very strongly developed in the book. I loved Francesca's relationships with her friends.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Haha! I love that you're giving Melina Marchetta books their own genre! I've only read Jellicoe Road by her, but I keep meaning to get around to the other ones. AND I want to re-read Jellicoe Road. Grr..So many books, so little time!

 
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