January 24, 2016

Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

January 24, 2016

Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: May 9, 2006
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary
Page Length: 243 pages
A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship with humor and heart, perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Lauren Myracle.

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.

Let me just start off by explicitly stating I love Melina Marchetta.  I read her most famous book, Jellicoe Road, last year as my book of choice for Sophomore English, and I absolutely loved it.

I don't know why it has taken me so long to pick up more of her books, but just before the weekend, I hit the jackpot at my school library.  I checked out Saving Francesca, reading this thin, manageable book in all but a day, and was once again reminded of why I loved Melina Marchetta so much in the first place.

Saving Francesca follows the life of "Francis," "Frankie," "Francesca" Spinelli, a teenage girl just starting out her 11th year at St. Sebastian's -- a traditionally boys' school turned coed.  Francesca is defined by what everyone else tells her she is.  Her mother tells her she's brave, kind, brilliant, and special, among other descriptors.  Her supposed friends from her previous school dictate her life.  But when Francesca's vivacious mother, Mia, somehow falls ill with depression, Francesca doesn't even know who she is anymore.  She begins to feel forgotten.  Invisible.

“Do you think people have noticed that I'm around?”
“I notice when you're not. Does that count?”
― Melina Marchetta, Saving Francesca

I've defined what makes Marchetta's writing so exceptional: her characters.  Each possesses a distinct, memorable, and real personality with many facets.  There's our main character Francesca, a girl who feels utterly lost to herself, but comes across to readers as sharp-witted and strong.  There's outspoken, activist Tara, quiet, musical Justine, and headstrong Siobhan.  There's also a slew of St. Sebastian boys: Thomas, the blunt and hilarious, Jimmy, the persistent, unwavering friend, and of course, there's the complicated, alluring Will.  Together, these characters tell a vivid tale of friendship and provide Francesca with a foundation, her much needed support.

“I used to tell your mother she looked like Sophia Lauren." He looks at me, frowning, and then it registers.
"Oh God, some guy's using that line on you, isn't he?"
"Not just 'some guy'." I tell him. "The guy.”
― Melina Marchetta, Saving Francesca

Francesca also has a wonderful family.  During this tough time, we get to see a very realistic portrayal of such hardship.  Feelings are confused and people are both hurt and angered.  While Francesca tries to make sense of the situation, she often clashes with her father.  The family's experiences were disheartening, but they did their best to get through the times.

Don't let this simple book cover fool you: Jam-packed into a mere 243 pages are ALL aspects of a great story.  I loved this book, and that's definitely saying something; Jellicoe Road is a difficult act to follow.

I'm off to read more Marchetta masterpieces!

author image

Julia Anne

I'm a teen with a refined taste for good books and great writing, currently living in Honolulu, HI. I'm a reader. A dreamer. And an aspirant writer. One day I have hopes to travel the world, but for now, I'll settle with venturing through the written works I read.


  1. Lately I have been hearing a lot about Melina Marchetta, I think I will give her a chance. This book sounds like something I would really enjoy, because I love stories with amazing characters. Great review!

    Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess

  2. Melina Marchetta is such a beloved author in the blogosphere, so I am so glad to see you liked this so much! Definitely going to have to give it a try. :) Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  3. I have to admit: I haven't heard of this book or the author before reading your review, but you really make me want to read this one! Usually I stay clear of books about depression these days, because it's too much of a sensitive issue for me, but I really want to give this one a go.

    I really like the sound of the synopsis! I'm a feminist, so I'm always looking for books with feminist themes, so this one sounds right up my street. I love books about boarding schools too, so I think this would be just my sort of thing!

    Thank you so much for sharing this book with me, Julia! I hope I get to it soon ☺
    Denise | The Bibliolater


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