Jo's Reviews > Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
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's review
Jul 07, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya, down-under, gorgeous-prose, just-been-cutting-onions, you-got-a-friend-in-me, boy-crush
Read from June 29 to 30, 2011

4.5 stars.

"I want to be an adjective again.
But I’m a noun.
A nothing. A nobody. A no one."

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Gorgeous. The perfect ending.

High Point.
Melina Marchetta- if you’ve read anything she’s written you’ll understand. Australia. Close family. Ethnicity. The power of girls vs Ridiculous boys. Finding your own way. Mental illness, this subject is a really important one for me and I really respect authors who write about this ‘taboo’ with honesty and understanding.

Low Point.
I have a theory that Melina Marchetta novels are like Guy Ritchie films.
Bear with me, I do have a point, I promise.
Whenever Mr Ritchie is mentioned my friend and I always argue as to which film of his we prefer out of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrelsand Snatch. I’m team Lock Stock and she’s team Snatch. After our arguments that seem to turn into a huge ‘Who can out quote who while putting on ridiculous Vinnie Jones/Jason Stayyyfffham-esque accents?’ sparring matches, we realised that neither of us were right… or we were both right.
Our favourite would always be the one we watched first.
(Don’t even get me started on what happened when Sherlock Holmes came out… phew, things got confusing)
And this is where we get back to Ms Marchetta who has been patiently waiting for me to get to my point. I think if I’d read Saving Francesca before Jellicoe Road, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But because Jellicoe Road was just perfection…. Saving Francesca paled in comparison. So that’s not to say that SF is a bad book, because I still loved it and it’s one of my favourite reads of 2011, but it’s not Jellicoe.
Jellicoe is my Lock Stock.

After I had pledged my unwavering allegiance to Taylor Markham, I wasn’t sure how Francesca was going to compare. I didn’t need to worry because, even if we did have a rocky start, she eventually won me over and I am officially extending my invitation to the League of Soul Sisters. I think the reason why I wasn’t completely besotted with Francesca from page one is because it’s easy to forget, when reading lots of YA books that are full of perky girls who only have problems that involve boys and best friends, that teenage girls aren’t like that in real life. And what I loved about Francesca, and all of Marchetta’s character for that matter, is that they are so realistic it’s like reading someone’s diary.
In the first few chapters of the book, Francesca is quiet, observant and a bit of bitch mean but, by setting her up in this way, Marchetta allows the reader to see her develop into a strong woman who is no longer stuffed into the boxes that her ‘friends’ put her in.
Francesca has to deal with so much and has to live two different lives, home and school, and she finds it exhausting, frustrating and unfair. I found the relationship between her and her mother so captivating and the overwhelming loneliness that Francesca felt was so perfectly executed that my heart ached. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of mental illness that I have read in any book, not just YA.
But all the while this is going on and the whole Will situation and her old ‘friends’ being complete bitches, Francesca never gives up and that is what I love most about her.
Also, I LOVED her observations on things. She’s got this wickedly dry sense of humour that I simply adored and there were so many times when I was reading it and I found myself nodding along to the things she was saying. I honestly think Marchetta is tuned directly into my mind… um, I mean… my seventeen year old mind. Because everything she says is spot on.

Love Interest.
Eh. I didn’t like William… but I’m not entirely sure I was supposed to. He was cute and I’m a sucker for the whole "Ugh, I hate you and I can’t stand you….but wait…no…what’s happening? It’s not hate that’s burning in my heart/loins…. It’s love!” thing. And even though he got better in the end, like Francesca’s surrogate big sister, I couldn’t help muttering under my breath when he swaggered onto the page.
BUT…. That ending?! Oh Francesca, I just wanted to high five you. That was perfect. So so perfect.

Anyway enough about Francesca… let’s talk about me. Thomas Mackee. Yes please. He’s another one who deserves the prestigious ‘Logan Echolls Award for Boys Who Are Outwardly Obnoxious and Oddly Attractive but Inwardly Tortured and Sensitive’ (I need to find a better title for that award… the trophy would be huge) along with Alpha . After I finished reading this book I couldn’t help but think… ‘Gosh, I wish we’d got to see more of him and found out why he was tortured and sensitive’. So imagine my delight when I discovered this.
A faster online-buy does not exist.

Best Friends.
Major love has to go out for Justine, Tara and Siobhan. Even though these girls are so completely different and have their own stories and backgrounds they are still there for each other, with no judgement.
“….but I look at the others’ faces. All of them glued to the screen, a dreamy look on their faces. A hint of a smile on their lips. A sense of hope. They’re all the same. Cynical Tara, couldn’t-give-a-shit Siobhan, romantic Justine. And I want to cry. Because my face looks just like theirs and I haven’t felt like anyone else since I was in Year Seven.”

Theme Tune.
Running Up That Hill- Kate Bush.

OK, Francesca You have no one to blame for this song choice but yourself. “…some woman named Kate Bush”. Pffft. She is my absolute idol. How can you not adore her?!
Anyway, this song is my joint favourite song from the goddess that is Kate Bush (along with this and, of course, this) and even though the main reason I am choosing this is because I feel compelled to educate a fictional character she was mentioned, I also think this song perfectly encapsulates the feeling of helplessness Francesca feels when trying to deal with the complex emotions that mental illness brings to light.

Angst Level.
8/10. The main theme in this book is the effect of mental illness on a family and all the emotions that come with it. Confusion. Grief. Anger. Guilt. Frustration. The chapters that focus on the relationship between Francesca and her mother are shocking and they are difficult to read, even if you have no experience with mental illness. But you can tell they aren’t just written for shock-value, they have been well-researched and are told with raw honesty.
There is also legitimate and deserved boy angst but, like I said, I don’t care much for Will. So he doesn’t count.
This book is all about Francesca.

Recommended For.
Fans of Melina Marchetta. People who want to see mental illness explored truthfully and not dumbed-down for fear people will be too shocked. People who have always wanted to dance when the teacher puts on music in P.E and looks at you expectantly but don’t because you fear you will be eternally mocked. Single girls who only talk to boys in relationships to steal them away from their girlfriends because… um, that’s the only reason why you talk to boys in relationships right? People who have always wanted to tell their ‘friends’ to shove it when they can’t let the one time you actually had fun. People who have Harry Potter pyjamas and pretend they’re your little brothers even though they’re obviously not. People who appreciate the genius of Sound of Music. People who find Colin Firth’s sideburns endearing and full of spunk. People who prefer Snatch to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. People who, just to prove my Ritchie/Marchetta theory wrong, prefer RocknRolla… or, um, Swept Away.

You can also read the review for this book and others and a whole lot of other exciting stuff on my blog here.
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Reading Progress

06/29/2011 "'Some woman named Kate Bush' :-| What?! Sacrilege, Francesca, Sacrilege." 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 51) (51 new)

Flannery I totally get what you are saying with the Guy Ritchie comparison. But I'd put money on Piper's Son blowing the other MM's out of the water and your theory being blown to bits:) Time will tell...

Love Kate Bush, love this review.

message 2: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Thank you! :)
I really want Piper's Son to get here now, I can't remember the last time I was this excited to read a book.
I know what you mean though... I have a feeling that I'm going to have another Sherlock Holmes on my hands..

Catie I still love Jellicoe more :)

And I totally had that song picked out when I first thought about a potential Kate Bush theme song. The other week, when you mentioned it, I had a good long chuckle over the video. Interpretive dance is so fun!

Also, I love this: "Ugh, I hate you and I can’t stand you….but wait…no…what’s happening? It’s not hate that’s burning in my heart/loins…. It’s love!”

Wendy F Absolutely, Jellicoe more.

Tom MacKee and Jimmy Hailler were the highlights for me in this book.

message 5: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Wendy F wrote: "Absolutely, Jellicoe more.

Tom MacKee and Jimmy Hailler were the highlights for me in this book."

Definitley. I didn't mind the girls in this book, but they ended up really grating on me in The Piper's Son.

Nothing can come close to Jellicoe... well, except TPS. I don't think I can choose between them. :)

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The way this book deals with mental illness is a big part of why I loved it so much.

(Jellicoe is still my fave, but I think this might be my 2nd favorite)

message 7: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Cassi (is going to stop pretending she's still on wrote: "The way this book deals with mental illness is a big part of why I loved it so much.

I completely agree, Cassi. I've read a lot of books that depict mental illness as if it's still taboo or they're scared of any one being offended by it.
I liked how MM portrayed it with brutal honesty.

Did you like TPS, Cassi?

Catie Here's another one that deals with mental illness well: The 10 P.M. Question.

I do like this one, but I like Looking for Alibrandi more!

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Of course I liked it! Melina Marchetta wrote it after all. I don't think she can do any wrong.

But this one just hit home more for me.

message 10: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo I still haven't read Looking for Alibrandi... I feel like I need to to complete the set :)

Unhooking the Moon is another book I read this year that explored it really well. It's such a gorgeous book.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Alibrandi is worth reading too! Everything by her is.

Added to my TBR list. (both recommendations)

message 12: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo I've just noticed that both of those books are for middle-grade readers.
It's weird how books based for 8-12 year olds (that's right, isn't it? American jargon!) deal with the subject better than YA books. You'd think it would be the other way round... I don't know.

Yay, I hope you enjoy it Cassi. It was really cheap on Amazon when I bought it for my Kindle and I was so surprised. Hardly anyone has read it..

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I'm going to go see if it's still cheap on Amazon. (I love a good deal on the Kindle)

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Just checked and it's not available on Kindle at the moment.


message 15: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Isn't it? :( Oh, that's strange.
But if you ever find it... I'd highly recommend it.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I'll keep my eye out for it. I clicked the "tell publisher you want this on Kindle" button.

Catie Yeah, that is interesting. I think that there are a lot of quite exceptional childrens or middle grade books. Even some of the early readers and picture books that I read my daughters are pretty great.

message 18: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Haha, yes... that'll sort 'em out!

I've just accidentally bought both Looking for Alibrandi and The 10pm Question...

I'm not even sorry. :-D

message 19: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo I know! I always get really angry when people are like 'UGH, I hate middle grade books'. There are some stunning ones and technically if you are a, shall we say, more mature YA reader (which anyone born after 1994 is!) then you're already reading below your reading level... so what's the problem?
I guess it's their loss.

Some of my favourite books of all time are middle-grade/children's. (For example...Good Night, Mr. Tom and The Snow Spider TrilogyBut I did read them when I was younger so that could be a factor.)

Catie It all just reminds me of that Madeleine L'engle quote (which I am sure you've heard), "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Some of my favorites are childrens/MG as well. My daughter and I listened to The Witches on a road trip recently and I faffing love that book. I think that I read it for the first time in the second grade.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Catie wrote: "It all just reminds me of that Madeleine L'engle quote (which I am sure you've heard), "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

That is an AMAZING quote. I don't read much MG just because I don't know as much about it, but often I stumble upon a great MG novel and absolutely love it.

message 22: by Jo (last edited Aug 13, 2011 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo I guess there's the element that when you're 8-12 you don't have the preconceptions embedded in you and political correctness isn't looming in the background. I think it's a much more honest place and less afraid to explore the 'scary' subjects.

I've never actually read that quote, Catie. I love it though. It's so true!

I love The Witches. (Have you ever seen the film? Holy eff, it's terrifying!) But I just love Roald Dahl (Matilda! LOVE). I did a project on him when I was 11 and I got 10 house points.
Proudest moment of my life. ;-)

Catie Yeah...I own the movie. Anjelica Huston = perfect. I was a huge Roald Dahl fan as a kid.

And I agree that childrens' books are sometimes much more honest that adult books.

message 24: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Have you ever read Boy: Tales of Childhood?
It's an autobiography of his childhood days. It's really sweet :)

Anjelica Huston is perfect in everything.

Catie No, I haven't read that one Jo. It was depressing to find out recently that he was an anti-semite. I had no idea. :((( I'll always love his stories though.

message 26: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Was he?!


Catie Well, I don't have any artifactual documents of proof or anything, but if you google "Roald Dahl anti semite" there are a quite a few hits.

His books are so special to me, and they exhibit so little that would indicate that he had those feelings...I am willing to just let it go.

message 28: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Yes, let's just pretend it is a vicious rumour. :(

On a slightly related note, you can buy cards from Paperchase with Quentin Blake illustrations on them. I loved them. I wonder if you can still get them... if so...

*looks devious*

Catie Oooh, really?

I love those illustrations. Especially his one of the Grand High Witch.

message 31: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Love :)

Haha as I wrote that earlier post, I've spent pretty much all evening on his website. I honestly wish more books had pictures.
Like Jacqueline Wilson
These were a staple of my childhood :)

Catie That would make a great avatar.

You'll have to let me know which of Jacqueline Wilson's are the best so I can get them for my daughters. I am putting together a library (which means I get to read them all first, mwa ha ha ha).

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Since your name is Thomas you might biased...

Wendy F I love The Piper's Son, too. I keep going back and forth between the two.

I love Tom Mackee!

message 35: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Thomas wrote: "hahaha well who DOESNT love tom mackee??"


I honestly couldn't decide which one. I'd be more inclined to recommend Jellicoe to friends who have never had the Double M experience... I think you need to work up to TPS.
I actually told my friend who I leant Jellicoe to that she wasn't ready for Thomas Mackee.

message 36: by Jo (last edited Aug 14, 2011 04:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Catie wrote: "That would make a great avatar.

You'll have to let me know which of Jacqueline Wilson's are the best so I can get them for my daughters. I am putting together a library (which means I get to re..."

My favourites are The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson, The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson, and the Girls in Love series are funny but they're set in high school and talking about snogging and boys and other rude things, so you may have to vet them ;)

But I think your daughters will love them, Catie.

Catie Paperbackswap had them all! Yeah!

message 38: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo :-D Yaaay.
I think my favourite is The Lottie Project because I am a bit of a history geek. :)
You'll have to let me know what you/your daughters think!

Wendy F Interesting because i had my friend start with Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son. But only because I thought that Jellicoe Road starts off so confusing that I'd need to make a fan out of her before I gave her Jellicoe to tackle. I knew if she didn't already love Melina already she'd quit.

message 40: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo My friend text me while she was reading Jellicoe saying 'Um, would you hate me if I said I didn't like this book?'
So I glared at the phone for a moment and then asked her whereabouts she was up to and she said about a third of a way through.
Then a couple of days later she text me saying 'I LOVE THIS BOOK'.
I do want her to read Saving Francesca and then The Piper's Son, but I have a feeling she'll prefer Jellicoe first.
I know she'll love Finnikin though!

Wendy F Haha, that's exactly the response I get when I can actually get people to finish it. I've begged 3 people to read Jellicoe, of which only 1 actually read it all the way through. It's so frustrating because they don't even realize they're missing out.

message 42: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo I didn't actually think it was that confusing really.
I liked not knowing because that's the whole point, isn't it? I loved the whole guessing game with it and coming to conclusions.
The thing is, it was obvious that Ms Marchetta knew what she was doing so even if it was confusing you could tell that it was all going to get worked out.

Tsk. Some people, eh? :-p

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The not knowing didn't bother me either Jo. The first chapter or so was a little rough on the brain (didn't know what Taylor was being selected leader of) BUT after that was happy as could be!

I haven't convinced anyone to read Jellicoe. Suddenly I feel like I'm not doing my duty as a superfan.

Wendy F I was a little lost at first, but I never once didn't want to keep reading. I guess I just felt for Taylor immediately, and I liked the flashbacks. I got this sense of melancholy that kept me interested.

message 45: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Me too.
Sigh, I need to get that prise that book out of her mitts and do a re-read. It makes me feel so dreamy.
And yes, Cassi. Spread the word of Double M!

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I've mentioned it numerous times but even when people have said that they'll have to look into it I could tell they were just saying that.

message 47: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Buy them copies and leave them on their doorstep with no note... and then walk away whistling. :-p

Wendy F Haha, you have it right Jo. I bought a copy and loaned it to the first person. Then I was afraid I wouldn't get it back so I just bought a second copy. Then I loaned the second copy to someone. A few days later I demaned the first copy back. A few weeks later I got the second copy back. Neither of those two finished the book. So I convinced my friend to read SF and TPS, after that I gave her a copy of Jellicoe and told her she'd fall in love. She did, thank goodness, hahahaha.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I've tried to figure out who it would be a perfect Christmas gift for but am not having much luck. I think it's amazing.

My friend Maggie didn't read Harry Potter to quite recently and just read Hunger Games and loved it. I'm trying to keep her more on the face paced fun YA track (Hex Hall, John Greene have both been suggested). She's only recently a big reader.

My sister loves reader but she's more of Pretty Little Liar's & NIcholas Sparks type.

My mom doesn't like anything to difficult.

But I want to give it to someone!

message 50: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Haha, I love that. I can just imagine you going round to her house being like 'HAND IT OVER. I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE'.

A perfectly understandable reaction to Jellicoe.

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