Although this involving novel is set in the author's native Australia, American readers will feel right at home, thanks to the charismatic, outspoken narrator, 17-year-old Josephine Alibrandi. A scholarship student at a tony Catholic girls' school, Josie is aware that she is different from her affluent "Aussie" classmates: she's illegitimate, and she's closely tied to her Italian immigrant community. She feels periodically rebellious against her classmates' snobbishness, against the nuns' authority at school, against her community's mores. Even so, Josie clearly regards the women in her lifeÄher single mother, her grandmother and even some of the nunsÄwith affection as well as exasperation. Josie has less experience dealing with guys until senior year, when three members of the opposite sex complicate her world. Her father, who has not previously known of her existence, arrives on the scene unexpectedly, and she can't help feeling drawn to him. She also becomes involved with two boys her own age: the upper-class but desperately unhappy John Barton and the wilder, iconoclastic Jacob Coote. The casting or plot may sound clich‚ed, but the characterizations are unusually insightful and persuasive. In articulate, passionate prose, Marchetta weaves the intricate web of Josephine's relationships, juxtaposing her revelations about her family history against current crises (these include John's suicide). If the author loses momentum at the end, straining for tidy closure, she does, simultaneously, leave open new doorways for her heroine. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)
Gr 9-12-Melina Marchetta's novel (Orchard, 1999) is an insightful portrait of an intense yet humorous young person. Though illegitimate, the 17-year-old Australian protagonist, Josephine Alibrandi, is a universally recognizable teen wrestling with many of the same worries that assail all high school students. Josie copes with the usual concerns about boys, friends, and where she fits in as a scholarship student at a Catholic school in a Sydney suburb. At the same time that she is trying to sort out complex relationships with her tradition-bound grandmother and her warm, no-nonsense mother, she is confronting her long-absent father. This is a deftly crafted story, and the characters have the ring of reality in their dialogue and actions. Marcella Russo's narration is equally fine, with each character distinctive. She conveys a special piquancy in the accented speech of the immigrant grandmother. Chapter and cassette breaks are underscored with light, jazzy music. This audiobook is a solid selection for any young adult literature list, and a must buy for libraries where teens borrow audiobooks.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library. Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.