Oh How She Rocks, In Keds and Tube Socks

Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta

4 STARS

 

“I want to be an adjective again.

But I’m a noun.

A nothing. A nobody. A no one.”

 

If I'm just going to rate this book by sheer writing quality, hands-down Marchetta delivered a 5 here. But I usually don't enjoy a book solely on the quality of writing, sometimes it actually feels daunting when I'm faced with such evident talent that I catch myself trying to be on alert while reading it. Making sure I am catching every foreshadowing, analogies, metaphors and parallels.

 

It's something I gripe about other YA authors, when they put on the moves to get something out of you. Like going out on a date with someone whose constantly trying to cop a feel. Reading a Marchetta book, on the other hand, makes you feel like going out with THAT guy. The one every other girl in school dreams about: articulate, sensitive and funny. And YOU'RE the one who ends up trying to cop a feel.

 

Francesca Spinelli wakes up one morning with a life that isn't hers anymore. Her usually spirited mother just decided she doesn't want to get out of bed. This while she's still trying to deal with the repercussions of her recent transfer to Saint Sebastian's - a school where being a girl puts her in the painful minority that has to experience an actual "Fart Corridor" and overwhelming, daily doses of testosterone at 16: burps, farts and misogyny. These two, seemingly conspiring events somehow leads her to find comfort and salvation in the unlikeliest of friendships.

 

“My mother won’t get out of bed, and it’s not that I don’t know who she is anymore.

 

It’s that I don’t know who I am.”

 

I'm not really a big fan of books dealing with depression because they almost always lead to ruminations about life that start off okay then just get too indulgent, bogging down everything else in the story. Thankfully, Frankie's moments in Saint Sebastian's kept everything afloat, something that's reminiscent of the friendly dynamics in Jellicoe. There's a depth in her awakening, in distinguishing between being true to her self and true to the person anchored to Mia, that is cleverly wrapped in fluffy-funny dialogue.

 

I liked Frankie even if she initially came across too self-centered but then she's 16 so really, who in that age isn't? I liked her growth. I liked her friends maybe a little more than her. The wit in the dialogue is sharp and effortless in its realism. Or as much as how we want our realities to be without it sounding like a sitcom. I thought Frankie with Tara, Siobhan and Justine had moments that I imagine would belong in movies like Sisterhood of Traveling Pants (disclaimer: I never watched/read the movie/book) made infinitely more entertaining by Tom and Jimmy.

 

My problem lay in the pacing. I felt some scenes were a little too hurried. As if I haven't settled yet in the idea of Tom/Jimmy acting like evolved humans or Will being sweet and I'm being whisked away to deal with the heaviness of Frankie dealing with her dad about Mia. There was no time to languish on one particular emotion making my connection to the characters flimsy at best. The structure also felt all over the place and it was a bit of a struggle to figure out the purpose of a particular scene in chapter A in relation to a scene in chapter F. The plot points maybe beautifully woven, but a little too abstract if one is to look closely.

 

Still a good, solid read (the lengthy spice rack discussion is still making me smile up to this moment) but not without some personal misses.

 

Moving on to Thomas Mackee - "the last bastion of arrested development and mental retardation".

 

“Thomas Mackee constantly burps loudly in class, and sometimes he tries to make a tune out of his burps. The song with the most requests is “Teenage Dirtbag,” and it’s actually fascinating to watch the level of appreciation for such a talent.”

 

How can you not.