by Melina Marchetta
Plot Summary: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 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.
Review:Well this was an amazing ride of a story. What I love about Melina's writing is how the emotional moments just sneak up on you. The author develops her characters with such precision - there's so many layers to each one, and all of them are so integral to the development of the story. This story, with its themes on family, friendship, self-discovery and depression resonated so strongly with me and I can't even begin to describe how real the characters and their dilemmas felt. This is an incredibly rich novel completely in keeping with the care Melina takes to develop her stories through relatable, realistic characters.
The main character, Francesca is very fragile throughout most of this story - she has relied on certain things throughout her life, and when it is taken away, she is unable to cope and unfortunately her strong mother has suddenly found herself in a similar state. And so Francesca develops a wonderful, eccentric support group with her group of friends and it's these interactions that make up the heart of the story in my opinion. Which is very difficult to say because Francesca's interactions with her family is almost equally important and amazing. But there is so much humor and unexpected poignancy in the gradual way Francesca opens up and accepts these people, and in the way they accept her. They all have flaws but they all work so well together.
There is a budding, delicate romance in this story that is a wonderful thread woven throughout - never overpowering the story but it does ground Francesca and becomes very important to her in the end. It's just another rich aspect of the story that I felt enhanced both characters so much. I loved that in the end a decision is made that might not be as romantically satisfying but was completely right for the characters and showed that they both are much stronger than in the beginning.
This book is highly recommended for the way the author takes such simple, everyday words and packs them with sudden emotional depth and meaning and the way the characters completely endear themselves to your heart. It's amazing!