Title: Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: YA contemporary
In short: witty, insightful, and an all-around laugh
Goodreads: 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, hersocial life and—hardest of all—herself.
I’d heard wonders about the magical Melina Marchetta bandwagon, and after Finnikin of the Rock, I was not-so-inclined to hop on. My friend told me she didn’t like Saving Francesca (it’s okay, we can forgive her for it. Poor, unknowing child.), which added to my uncertainty. But guess what proved me wrong!
Francesca was wonderfully funny—which is one thing I can’t resist in MCs. If the character is funny, chances are I’ll give it one whole star just for the amusement it gave me, even if the story was horrific. She had me from that very first moment of sass. “It’s Tolstoy.” Oh, abandon all hope, ye who enter here! I don’t even know what that line actually is. Forgive me if I’m misquoting. Francesca will own you, in all meanings of the word.
The story was fairly simple and straightforward as far as YA contemporary goes; there was no excessive drama, but it’s still infused with emotions. Francesca’s confusion is so easy to relate to for a lot of teens, and the idea of being lost, like a stranger in one’s own life, isn’t so hard to believe. The same goes for controlling
awful friends, and school-life complications—let’s face it. High school is pretty much a hellhole. I love how Francesca starts off as someone who’s drifting along, and by the end, she’s sailing her own yacht and cutting against the current.
Saving Francesca is a true gem amongst contemporary young adult novels, for the plain fact that it’s Francesca’s story. The teenage drama and boys take a backseat to her problems, her struggle to balance the friends who suppress her personality with the ‘weird’ girls who like her the way they are, and most importantly, her love for her mother. Along the way, Francesca discovers that she doesn’t need to be rescued, not by friends, family, or boys. She is who she is, and she can’t pretend to be any different. The novel, packed with nuggets of wondrous insights and Francesca’s gloriously dry humour, is all about embracing who you are, no matter the consequences, and the people who embrace you for yourself are the ones you ought to keep. Saving Francesca is a shout of defiance, an upbeat ‘so what?’, a small journey of self-discovery of one sixteen-year-old girl to her promise land—individuality.