February 20, 2013

I Want To Be An Adjective Again

Saving Francesa by Melina Marchetta

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:

1. Friendships
2. Family
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.

So Quotable
"'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."

12 comments:

  1. I love how you're on this Melina Marchetta expedition right now! I still haven't read Jellicoe Road yet--despite trying a few times to get through the beginning--so that's happening soon. But Saving Francesca sounds excellent! I LOVE this paragraph to infinity, and it will probably be the reason that I pick this book up sooner rather than later:

    "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."

    WHAT I just QUOTED YOU. You're awesome. This review is awesome. And it sounds like this book is awesome. Huzzah!

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    1. Oh I'm a total Melina Marchetta fangirl these days! You MUST read Jellicoe Road. I know the beginning is so confusing, but you can't give up! I almost did and then once I got to the awesome stuff I realized how much AMAZING I would have missed if I'd set the book down. Persevere!

      So glad you loved my review enough to quote it. HOLLA! You're awesome, lady. And this book. It's totally awesome too! READ IT. And you can always read this before Jellicoe - it's not confusing and may give you more of a push to read Jellicoe.

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  2. OH MY GOODNESS. I need to read this asap! I hear it's the one to read before The Piper's Son...true? I know you haven't read that yet by her but I'm wondering if they are companion books?

    I am all about the bookish anxiety. THAT is when you know you are fully invested in the characters!

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    1. Yes, read this before The Piper's Son. They are companion books, which I am falling in love with these days. I love that it's not a "series" but you still get to revisit important characters. One of Francesca's friends in this book is a guy named Tom, and he's the main character in The Piper's Son. But Francesca is also in the book, too! And I've read The Piper's Son too (my reviews are delayed these days because I'm trying to get better at scheduling stuff. So reviews aren't necessarily published right after I read something haha!) - and I adored The Piper's Son, too!

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  3. I'm so, so glad you loved this one! I read Jellicoe Road first and then Saving Francesca too. I was worried, just like you, that I would have messed things up for myself. What I'm learning, though, is that there's just no going wrong with Melina's writing! She's fantastic! Lovely review, Hannah! xo

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    1. Yep, that's exactly the lesson I've learned! No matter what order you read her books in, you'll still love her characters and her writing. She is amazing!

      Glad you enjoyed the review :) AND you were actually one of the people who told me I really did need to read this before The Piper's Son. So glad you did! I would have been missing out on SO MUCH if I'd gone straight to Tom's story.

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  4. OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS. Oh my goodness!! I just did the flaily hand thing, in case you need a mental image about how excited I am right now. And for the record, no I haven't read this book.

    First of all, YAY for you having bookish stress. I don't tend to push stress off on people, but ISN'T IT WONDERFUL? When you feel all the things in the book? And then with the audiobook, don't you think that just made it THAT MUCH MORE AND THEN SOME?? Gosh, I tell you what you just did - you just told me which Marchetta is coming next. (After this Lumatere series. Or maybe while. Maybe for my Contemporary Month?)

    Wow. I loved this blog post to pieces. I want to frame it because you had the bookish stress and because you did the audiobook for a first read which is SO HARD and I don't do it often either but I understand why you did it! I'm so excited. So excited. Also, I'm so excited to be a newbie to MMarchetta because it's really a great time to be a blogger/reader and be in the middle of all of the Marchetta fans because everyone has such great enthusiasm that it is SO INFECTIOUS.

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    1. YAYYYYY FOR FLAILY HANDSSSS! That's a total win for me, I tell you.

      You are totally introducing me to the concept of bookish stress. I'm sure I've had it before, but I don't know that I necessarily recognized. Now, I'm like, "Oh, I know what this is..." Haha! I knew that if you hadn't read this you'd be all over the audiobook info. I (like you) don't typically do audio first reads, but whew! This one was worth it. You should TOTALLY do this one for your Contemporary Month! It's the perfect fit :)

      Yes, this really is a great time to be a Melina Marchetta fan! I'm new to her books (since I just read my first one last July) and I've been trying to make my way (sort of slowly) through all of them because I DREAD the day I don't have a new, unread Marchetta on hand. The horror!

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  5. Confession: I've never read a Melina Marchetta book before. *hides* Jellicoe Road has been on my wishlist FOR-E-VER, but this one is pretty new to me. I know it's an "older" release, and therefore, I haven't heard much about it. But now I DEFINITELY want to read this soon. I know what you (and Asheley) say about the way that books just GET to you and will never ever leave your heart. Gayle Forman has the ability to write those books for me, and so does John Green. What else is there? "I want to be an adjective again. But I’m a noun. A nothing. A nobody. A no one." Oh, how I love word comparisons in books. I just want to read this book. Now.

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    1. That's okay! You don't have to hide around here. I just read my first Marchetta last July, so it wasn't that long ago that I hadn't read anything by her either. I do think, as you mentioned, the fact that this is an older release is a big reason why I hadn't really heard much about it. I do think that the one bad thing about blogging is that sometimes I only read posts and reviews about brand new books. My reading habits are really varied - so I love reading things about older books that aren't being hyped all the time.

      I love that we share a mutual love for amazing quotes! And so glad that the one I included here made you want to read this book NOW :)

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  6. Apart from Jellicoe Road and Finnikin (which I still have to catch up on reading for the read-along), I haven't read any of Melina's other books. This one sounds fantastic though, and Francesca sounds like a character I'd very much like to meet.

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    1. Yes, you definitely should check this book out! It was really wonderful, and it solidified my love for Melina!

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