Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and my attempt to be an Aussie for a day!

Saving Francesca is a book I normally would not have looked at twice - a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl whose mother is acutely depressed. Neither of those subjects is really my *thing*. But, I remembered when I went to Maggie Stiefvater's book signing that she mentioned that it was one of her favorite YA books (here's a great review she did over at YA Reads).

Then, Danielle sent me her copy, and I put it on my TBR shelf. And it stayed there - mocking me. I was afraid I wasn't going to like it as much as she did. As usual, I was wrong and she was right (well, not about the vegemite; more on that later :D) - I loved this book. I tore through it in an afternoon.


From the back cover:

St. Sebastian's: Pretends it's a coed school by giving the girls their own toilet.
The Psycho Girls: The only female companions to be found at st. Sebastian's: Tara Finke, ultra-feminist; Siobhan Sullivan, former "Slut of St. Stella's Academy"; and Justine Kalinsky, impossibly dorky accordion player.
The Sebastian Boys: Thomas Mackee, specializes in musical burping, probably dropped on his head a few times as a baby; Will Trombal, Perpetually frowning, smug moron with no personality; now, if only Francesca could stop daydreaming about him...
MIA: The Queen of the Limitation Placers - Francesca's vivacious mother. Thinks she knows what's best for Francesca and makes her attend the hateful all-boys school - until the day she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is.

My Thoughts:

Did I mention I loved this book? 'Cause I did. It was touching, sad, funny, angsty, and an all-around excellent read. As the story opens, Francesca sort of defines herself as the opposite of her mother. You see how she has opinions but doesn't act on them, giving off a sort of non-commital, disinterested vibe, when really what she's been doing is sort of "squashing" her personality as she fights becoming her mother.

Suddenly, one morning her mother doesn't get out of bed. And again the next day, and the next. As her mother goes through her illness, Francesca is forced to look into herself and figure out who she is; defining herself as more than "not my mother".

Ms. Marchetta created characters that grew on me as the story progressed - the boys who started off as aloof, obnoxious and crude but by the end of the book as were a wonderful support system (and still crude and funny). Francesca's views of and interactions with her female friends was a bit off-putting at first, but those interactions were also part of her journey to find herself. Some of the adults in the story were awful enough to be borderline moronic, like the "aunt" who suggested Francesca's father might start to look elsewhere if her mother's illness continued, but I know, sadly, that those kinds of people do exist out here in the real world. Francesca's relationship with her father was complex and frustrating, but in the end, loving.

This was another book that made me laugh and cry. The writing was excellent - I connected with Francesca, and also, maybe a bit scarily, with her mother (although, I think that once you get to a certain age maybe that's not so surprising). I definitely want to read the next book, The Piper's Son, which is about Francesca's friend Thomas.

If you hadn't figured it out by now, I give Saving Francesca 5/5 stars!


When Danielle sent this book, she also sent a cute little koala bear and a tube of Vegemite. Now, the only thing I know about Vegemite is that Men at Work sing about it. So, I decided that since I was reading a this book sent to me by an Australian friend and written by an Australian author this would be a good day to try the Vegemite. I also had a package of TimTams (thanks Limecello) that I ate after I finished the book, so I was feeling very Australian today. :) (trying to remember if I used my Aussie shampoo this morning...) Back to the was not what I expected (although I really don't know what I was expecting), it was very strong and tasted like beef bullion. Is this really a breakfast food? I would think it would be more suited to lunch. It was fun to try though (the whole family gave it a go and had about the same reaction as I did :O).

Thank you Danielle for the excellent read and the chance to sample Vegemite since I've always wondered exactly what it was (Holy cow - I just realized that song is almost 30 years old!!!). And don't worry about the koala - he's keeping my Edward Cullen doll company on my keeper shelf :)


  1. Patti, just as you'd better follow Danielle's recommendations, it seems I should follow yours! :-)

    First you raved about Touched by an Alien and you gave me hope that since sci-fi wasn't really your thing, maybe there was a chance that me, who has never read anything sci-fi would also enjoy it, and I LOVED TBBA!! So thanks for the recommendation it seems I should add Savbing Francesca to my TBR list and trust your judgment :-)

    Have no idea what Vegemite is, but bet the koala is really cute :-D

  2. I think Vegemite is one of those things you need to grow up eating to have a taste for it!

  3. 'Australian for a day' - you're too funny!

  4. I have heard of those strange things called vegemite and tamtams, and have no idea what they are. But you were brave and faced them head on lol

  5. hmm...a book like this is always worth taking a look at when an author says it's their favorite book. I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

  6. LOL about the Vegemite and the 'feeling like an Australian' day! Your review piqued my interest for this book. Sounds great. :)

  7. I'm with you Patti I don't think from the blurb, I would have grabbed it. This is why I follow you *grin*.

    If Maggie Stiefvater likey then I'll probably likey.

  8. Stella: That's the sweetest compliment - thank you!!!

    Chris: That's exactly what I told hubs :)

    Julie: I was feeling the Aussie love!

    Blodeuedd: I'd heard of them too, so when I realized I had them both in the house and had the Australian book connection I decided to go for it :)

    Buckeye Girl: I love hearing what authors like to read.

    Janna: It was a very good book, I'm glad I read it.

    KC (or KK?): I wouldn't have grabbed it - you think I'd have learned by now to be open to more things instead of automatically deciding I don't like them...Maggie Stiefvater's review was wonderful (no surprise there, LOL).

  9. Vegemite is awesome. That is all.

  10. I <3 Vegemite!!!

    It is definitely an acquired taste.

    But you shouldn't slather it on the bread either.

    Try this, butter two slices of bread put a smear of vegemite on add some lettuce and voila!

    Many people eat it like peanut butter and it's not really meant for that. :)

  11. Glad you enjoyed the book Patti! It sound like a good read. I'm reading an excellent YA novel right now too.

    Never heard of Vegemite either? hmmm lol Not too sure about that one..

  12. Kris: Really? I asked Danielle if People of Oz really ate it or was it more of a novelty food...

    Wings: That was Danielle's suggestion also - lots of butter on toast. I think I was just surprised at how strong the flavor is.

    Lea: I really enjoyed the book, I'm glad I read it. Yup,the only thing I knew about vegemite was the song :)

  13. Yay! Count me in!! I haven`t even heard of this book until now. Thanks for the head`s up!


  14. ARGH!
    So glad you loved the book (dare I say, as much as I do?)
    You should definitely check out her first book 'Looking for Alibrandi'!

    Good on you for trying the vegemite - tim tams are our better creation, but vegemite rocks my socks!

  15. Natasha: Not giving this one away. Sorry :(

    Danielle: Yay - I really did love it! I've got her first book ordered and am stalking the mailman! I think I was surprised by how strong the vegemite was, I may try it again (maybe after a few drinks, LOL!)