4 Star Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an 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 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.

Melina Marchetta is wicked awesome in her malicious power to make people feel all the SOBS AND PAIN!

Bare with me here people. Let’s say that one day you wake up. The sun is shining, the air is clean, and your nameless pet licks you on the face. You stretch your arms and feel every muscle in your body relax. Mr. Sandman blessed you with the best night sleep of your life. You walk to the front door. You slowly turn that handle and open the door. You look down and grab that crisp new newspaper. Now just for a second, let’s pretend you are the sappy type of person that actually reads a physical newspaper and instead of digital newspaper like a boss. It’s the modern age people. Time to wake up to reality. Ahem. You smile. Breathe in the fresh air. You smell the pretty roses. You have happy smiles coming out your ass. You look up into the beautiful colorful sky. You take a second wind and…”SHIT BALLS!! IT’S RAINING FIRE AND KNIVES!” A titan of a knife falls into your head (Now. Remember this isn’t real. In my mind, this could actually happen. Reality has no meaning here). Yes, into your head. You feel as if your very soul is being ripped out, it’s so painful.

This is what it’s like to read a Melina Marchetta novel. You go into it skipping and dancing thinking of rainbows, daisies, and beautiful words. Little do you know of the demented and malicious creature who wrote that book. I can just imagine her sitting there at her desk, injecting the tears of her readers into her bloodstream so she can stay alive. She is BAD ASS.

*death will come to you my friend*

Francesca is the zenith of young adult heroines with personality and individuality. She’s a pop culture junkie and uses it with intelligence. Marchetta writes Francesca’s snark and witty comebacks with class. Never did I feel that she drilled it into the reader that she’s astute and flippant. She’s no Charley Davidson.

“…Do you know what this is? Luca is going to sneak out of bed in the middle of the night and squirt it on his tongue. It’s like drugs for ten-year-olds. Today it’s Ice Magic. Tomorrow, heroin.”

*Give me the delicious Ice Magic*

Francesca wants to find her place. She’s not shy, but she doesn’t want to be an outcast either. Her mother’s opinion is that she’s lazy. Her old friends think she’s nonthreatening and weird. Her new friends think she’s shy. But, Francesca: she’s not sure what to think because everybody else is telling her what she is and what she isn’t. She wants to make them see the real her. She wants them to see the real her, but at the same time she just wants survive her new school at St. Sebastians. It’s a dangerous thing to be the center of attention and it’s not a job she wants.

My theory is to lay low, and my reluctance to get involved has nothing to do with fear or shyness, contrary to popular perception.

Francesca is stuck between being in the hellish place that is teen adolescence and watching her mother sink deeper and deeper into the sorrow of depression. The reason I love Francesca is her savage honesty about boys, sex, and depression. In the midst of all that, she never censors her thoughts or language. She uses words like fuck and get stuffed, making me adore her all the more. She’s independent and speaks up with a slightly crude attitude. I am Team Francesca all the way.

I want to be her friend. Seriously, Francesca. Me and you. We could rule the world with our pop culture references and snarky slams. It would be glorious. The things we would do together:

1. Spread world peace with our snark.

2. Watch the entire Buffy series.

3. Watch anything with sappy love scenes like pride and prejudice.

4. Start our own blog of pop culture wickedness

5. Sing the lyrics of Fiddler on Roof drunk on Vodka and cheetoes.

6. Go into a bookstore and put pink stickers on our favorite books so people would buy them.

See how much fun would we would have? Seriously Francesca, you have no idea the wondrous things you would miss out on if don’t become friends. We could be like a Jennifer Lawrence type of awesome.

*Look at my beard of glory*

Francesca acts like a real teen instead of immature rip off Bella Swan. She’s real and doesn’t overemphasize the guy’s good looks just to make sure the reader is listening. I love that the guy she’s into isn’t good looking. He’s plain. They get off on the wrong step , but then over the year they sink into each others lives. They can’t help but look at each other. Very few Young Adult books make me feel that the relationship is real. This one made me believe.

“Sometimes you look at me and it’s like all the bullshit gets stripped off and I’m left with what’s underneath and I kind of like what I see. Someone who actually fails. Someone who has absolutely no self-control. Someone who says real dickhead things like ‘this is complicated.’ I like that part of me, you know. I like the fact that I know I can’t control you or how I feel about you and that doesn’t freak me out.”

God, what is with you Marchetta? What kind of sick need to you have to make me feel saccharine feelings all the time. No other author has this effect on me. I don’t cry. Not a crier, okay?


Marchetta doesn’t just excel at characterization and emotion, she’s a wordsmith without turning it into purple prose. She’s wildly talented with words and forming them to make sure that every single time magic comes out of her pen. You can just tell that each sentence took time. Each sentence reads as if she spent hours just thinking of the perfect way to form the words she wants to say. She’s a malicious magician and I love her.

*Time to intentionally fall out of my chair so I can sob the ultimate sobs*

Her dialogue is pure fucking genius:

“You chicks give me the shits,” he says.                                    

“You, on the other hand, brighten up our day,” I tell him. “We all regard you as a god.”          

“You know what we call you? Bitch Spice, Butch Spice, Slut Spice, and Stupid Spice.”

Marchetta deals with Francesca’s development beautifully. At first, I thought Francesca judged a friend of hers for having sex because she was known as the school slut. Then, I changed my mind. There was a development that curbed her original opinion. It was done subtly, but it was there. I never felt that it was slut shaming, but that it was unclear as to whether it was slut shaming. I came to the opinion, that Francesca may have originally been judgmental about her friends decision to be rash and irresponsible in her sex life. Francesca improved her thoughts that it wasn’t her place to judge someone based on whether they had sex with someone they didn’t know.

Full of Buffy, Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Taxi Driver references among many others, this is the type of novel you should be ashamed you haven’t read.

2 thoughts on “4 Star Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

    • Brigid says:

      Marchetta is one of those authors that you have no choice: YOU WILL SOB. There are a select few authors who can make me tear up, and Marchetta is the big kahuna of authors that make me tear up.

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