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Saving Francesca
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Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting but not particularly accommodating to girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Gr 9-12-In her second young adult novel, Australian author Melina Marchetta creates a compelling teen girl character conflicted by her mother's deep clinical depression and her own adjustment to a new, previously all boys school. As in Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi (Orchard, 1999), the themes and motifs here include the main character's status as being one generation removed from the immigrant Italian community. Francesca is not only a very believable 16-year-old, but the demands on her given her family's difficulties and her friends' attempts to deal with changes in their social milieu are ones that American teens will understand and empathize with readily. Marchetta sees the vanities of some adults as occasions for humor as well as distrust on the part of insightful teens. Rebecca Macauley's light accent is readily understandable, and she provides a variety of voices for Francesca, her beleaguered father, her little brother, and her female and male friends. There is enough romance here to make the story appealing to those interested more in such relationships than in the equally well-treated complexity of parent and teen relationships. Francesca grows through the story's development from a girl who knows only how to emulate others to one who is willing to admit that she has her own needs and ideas. The print version will be available in the U.S. this fall.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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