Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: May 9th 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance.
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
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, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship with humor and heart, perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Lauren Myracle.
Melina Marchetta is in a league of her own. Every single one of her books has struck a cord with me. Saving Francesca is an understated book. It is grounded in its simplicity. There’s no flashing lights, no dramatic conflict and no exaggerated scenarios. Saving Francesca is a subtle but poignant tale of a teenager grappling with a slew of sudden chances that strike the very core of her life and her family.
Francesca’s world is in a state of upheaval. Being forced to attend a previously all boy school, she finds herself separated from her old friends and being a target at her new school simply for being a girl. Her home life has also taken a hit as her previously high spirited and lively mother sinks into the pits of depression. Now she comes home to a house of silence and the range of emotions explored, from the confusion, to the anger and hurt is beautifully explored. Once again Melina Marchetta captures the complexities of human nature. Humans are a beautifully flawed race and the exploration of Francesca’s emotions as she grapples with these changes in her life are so raw and real that it makes it impossible to not connect with her. As she adjusts to these changes, Francesca also develops a strong sense of self. At St. Sebastian’s she is surrounded by a new group of girls who are wonderful, eccentric, and encourage Francesca to embrace her loud and vibrant self, something her old friends were all to quick to shun her for. Along the way she also befriends some of the guys in the school. This group of friends are that source of light to Francesca as she grapples with life at home. The support and encouragement they provide each other is heart-warming and I loved that we got to peel back the layers to these secondary characters as well. However, where friendships bloom, so does a romance and I must say the connection between Francesca and Will was so sweet. The romance between these two was beautifully developed. It’s not a romance full of grand expressions of love. Instead we get a tender, subtle romance that naturally develops over the course of this book.
Depression is also a strong topic of discussion in this book. It highlights the way that depression can hit you at the most unexpected of times. Francesca provides snippets of her relationship with her mother prior to the events of this book. We learn early on that she was the glue holding the family together. Depression doesn’t just affect the individual, it affects the entire family. Relationships are challenged and the raw emotion explored hit home for me. It’s never easy watching a parent suffer and the sense of helplessness is frustrating. It’s a tangled web of confusion and messy emotions. However, throughout the hurt and the anger, there is always a strong sense of love and support. This is a journey they endure together and in the end it only makes them stronger. There’s no magical cure for this illness and I respect the time and care Marchetta took in exploring the intricacies and complexities of depression.