Release Date: March 2003
Publisher: Random House | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 243 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook & audiobook
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
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 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.
Thoughts on Saving Francesca
My very first Melina Marchetta was Jellicoe Road, which I adored with all my heart (once I got past my initial confusion). But after I finished, I felt a little despondent. What was I thinking reading most people's favorite Marchetta first? Was I doomed to compare everything I read after to the standard of Jellicoe Road? Well, yes and no.
I certainly started Saving Francesca with some expectations, hopes and fears. I expected it to be good - after all, it had excellent ratings on Goodreads from some of my friends. I hoped it would earn a place in my heart. And I feared it would never reach the bar that had been set so high by my first Marchetta. Y'all, I should never have feared. It was beyond my expectations and fulfilled my every hope. Not only did I love Saving Francesca, but it touched me in a way I never expected. It also solidified my love for Melina Marchetta - that woman can write one hell of a book!
Francesca is one of 30 girls at St. Sebastian's and is surrounded by 750 guys. More than anything, she misses her old school - St. Stella's. "At Stella's, you turned up to school, knew exactly what your group's role and profile was, and the day was a blend of all you found comfortable. My mother calls that complacency but whatever it's called, I miss it like hell" (2-3).
Add to that the recent disturbing turn of events in her family life - her mother refusing to get out of bed. Francesca expects it to be a minor thing, a blip on the radar, but then it's not. Her mother, Mia, is suffering from severe depression. Mia's depression touches everything in the book. It causes tension, confusion, frustration and anxiety. And yet, the book still feels incredibly hopeful in the end.
In the midst of all that, it's really a book about Francesca finding herself. That may sound very ordinary, and I suppose on the surface it's "just" a coming-of-age tale. But Marchetta's writing and characters elevate this to so much more. These are characters you want to know in real life. Ones that you can't believe don't exist off the page.
Francesca struggles with common things - her mother's expectations for her, finding friends, fitting in, discovering who she is - but this book absolutely got to me. I loved the puzzle of Jellicoe Road and cheered for the swoon. But Saving Francesca got into my heart and made it ache in all the right ways.
I love to read, but I don't typically experience what my friend Asheley calls bookish stress. Sure, I may occasionally experience a bout of it, but it's generally pretty mild. Well, let me just say that this book gave me bookish stress in heaps and doses. Not because it's a stressful read. Oh no. But because I was so invested in these characters, in their moments of doubt and discovery, that I felt emotional the entire time I was reading. In a recent post, Asheley wrote, "You guys, I FEEL the books I read, down to the core of my very being. It's bookish stress!" And I'll just raise a hand and say, "Yes ma'am."
I think a huge part of why I was so invested in this book, besides the incredible writing talents of Melina Marchetta obviously, is that I chose to listen to the audiobook. As a newbie to the audiobook world, I typically select audios for rereads. I'm still getting familiar with the art of focusing while listening to an audio and tend to get stressed about missing details. Well, I am so glad I broke my own rule for this book because this audio was fantastic.
I cannot say enough great things about reader Rebecca Macauley. I liked her voice in the sample, but I wasn't one hundred percent sure I was going to love it. Thankfully, I trusted my instincts and went for it. Something about her delivery was so perfect - she captures the tone of Melina's words so wonderfully. She became Francesca for me, and there were a few times where I was so struck by her delivery of certain lines or passages that I just wanted to rewind (is that even the proper term now?) and listen over again. Added bonus is the lovely accent, of course.
Still need convincing? Four reasons to move Saving Francesca from your TBR to your nightstand:
3. Falling in Love
4. Finding Your Voice
Seriously, what's a girl got to do to get you to read this book? I loved it, gave it five stars on Goodreads without a moment's hesitation, and know you will fall in love with Francesca, too.
"'I was born seventeen years ago,' I tell him. 'Do you think people have noticed that I'm around?'
'I notice when you're not. Does that count?'"
"I need voices of reason and of hysteria and of empathy. I need to have an Alanis moment. I need advice from Elizabeth Bennett. I need Tim Tams and comfort food. I need to find the girls."
"I want to be an adjective again. But I'm a noun. A nothing. A nobody. A no one."