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:
LIMITATION PLACERS IN FRANCESCA'S LIFE
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.
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 Vegemite...it 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 :)