Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Knopf, 243 pages
“Most of my friends now go to Pius Senior College, but my mother wouldn’t allow it because she says the girls there leave with limited options and she didn’t bring me up to have limitations placed upon me. If you know my mother, you’ll sense there’s an irony there, based on the fact that she is the Queen of the Limitation Placers in my life.”
Francesca battles her mother Mia constantly over what’s best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian’s, an all-boys’ school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca’s surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos – or worse.
Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother’s high spirits she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn’t yet realize that she’s more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St Sebastian’s, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and especially herself.
This particular cover for Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but it didn’t give me that. I thought it would be just funny, friends, and I honestly thought I would only be in for a quick and light in-between read, but it wasn’t that.
Saving Francesca was funny. Quirky. It was light in some ways, and being less than 250 pages, it was a very quick read indeed. I thought it would be just that. Look at the cover and tell me, wouldn’t you expect the same thing? I think I must clarify, though — it wasn’t just what I was expecting if I were to judge it by its cover. It was more. Friends, I was expecting to only like this book. I wasn’t expecting to love it.
Francesca’s mom, Mia, is a hands-on mom who wants nothing but the best for her daughter. Francesca is used to waking up to her mom giving her pep talks for conquering her day especially after she’s moved to the recently co-ed St. Sebastian’s. However, one day, Mia just simply doesn’t get out of bed. Francesca’s days are suddenly plunged into a surprising silence from her Mom and everything she knows suddenly doesn’t make sense. Not only is her family falling apart, but she had no friends in St. Sebastian’s, and it doesn’t help that she’s having weird feelings for popular guy William Thrombal. Francesca needs saving — stat.
I’ve been meaning to read a Marchetta book for the longest time, as everyone I know who’s read them keeps on singing praises to her books. As a fan of contemporary YA, not reading Marchetta’s books seem like a crime, so I finally gave in and cracked this book last week. And I was really, really glad I did. :)
Marchetta certainly knows how to make it all realistic. Francesca is such a strong character that even in her weak moments, she shows a unique strength that makes you root for her all the way. My heart broke for her when she finds herself lost, and I rejoiced when I see her slowly rising up. She’s one of those heroines that will remain with you and wish to be there for when she needed someone the most.
But then again, as the story goes, you’d realize that maybe Francesca had all that she needs after all. The best part of this book (and I hear most of Marchetta’s books) are the relationships. I loved Francesca’s family and her friends. None of them were perfect, but it was the kind of relationship that you’d want to have in your life. Her family reminded me of mine — the father’s quiet strength, the mother’s louder personality and a close relationship with the brother. I especially loved the Francesca’s relationship with her dad — flawed and very realistic, and it was one of the things that made me shed a tear or two. :)
I especially loved her friends, and the author had their interactions done pat. I loved every bus scene where they’d argue and pretend not to be friends, I loved every time one character would invite himself over to dinner. I found it really nice when the girls would hang out and watch Pride and Prejudice and eat Oreos and Pringles. Like Aaron, I loved that scene in Francesca’s bedroom after a particularly emotional moment in the book. Like everyone else, too, I wanted to be a part of that group, to ride the bus with them and see them everyday in school and joke with them and all that.
Hm, you know what? Francesca’s friends remind me of my own too. We weren’t exactly all friends from school or did we bond over bus rides, but I can’t help but think of them as I think about the characters in the book. :) Look at us here:
It must be noted, too, that I was very thrilled when I read about the Filipino character in the book, Eva Rodriguez. And even if she wasn’t really a part of the main group, I liked that she was present there every now and then. :)
Saving Francesca is a very, very good book about family, friendships and identity. I loved every bit of it — as if it wasn’t that obvious from all my gushing. :) I cannot wait to read more of Marchetta’s books. This is definitely one great contemporary YA novel that I would keep on my shelf and revisit every now and then. :)
My copy: paperback from Fully Booked
Blurb: Melina Marchetta’s website