Genre: YA - Contemporary
Publication: 05.09.2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: ★★★ ½
Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, 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 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 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, hersocial life and—hardest of all—herself.
This is one of those books that I picked up only because it was on audio. Sure, it sounded like something I would enjoy, but I really had no idea what to expect. Saving Francesca was different than what I thought it would be, but overall, I enjoyed it.
We are introduced to Francesca who goes to a former all-boy-school that she hates because all her friends went elsewhere. Her family is struggling with her mother’s depression. Her mother, who controlled and managed their life, suddenly falls apart and can’t seem to get out of bed and now, Francesca has to learn to take charge and help around as much as possible.
Francesca is a likable character, somewhat. She’s snarky, funny, sometimes spontaneous and really protective of her brother. But she can also be quite naïve about several aspects of her life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found a bit frustrating at first. As for the secondary characters; there was a ton! While I found the amount of characters confusing at first (I stopped trying to figure out who was who somewhere around the fourth or fifth chapter,) I found each character unique and interesting by the time I was able to grasp who they were.
“I can't believe I said it out loud. The truth doesn't set you free, you know. It makes you feel awkward and embarrassed and defenseless and red in the face and horrified and petrified and vulnerable. But free? I don't feel free. I feel like shit.”
“Where did this come from? 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.”
While I was a little uninterested at first, I think my attention was finally captured when a love interest is introduced. Romance doesn’t play an important part in the story. It has a minor role but I felt that when that part is introduced, it really starts the development of Francesca’s character. I can’t say I really liked the love interest all that much (he was kind of an idiot and a jerk) but we get to see more of the real Francesca after their first few encounters.
“Do you think people have noticed that I'm around?"
"I notice when you're not. Does that count?”
Even though Francesca has to deal with her mother’s depression throughout the book, I had a hard time relating to her through these difficulties. I have never dealt with depression or with someone who is depressed, but I would have still been able sympathize with what was going on. I didn’t though. At least, I didn’t until the end, when we finally understand what was really going on and Francesca learns some truths that were kept from her.
Overall: Saving Francesca is about growing up, family and learning who your real friends are. It's about learning to be yourself. It's about a teen who has to deal with real life situations, but with enough humor to offer a less serious tone to the book. I am sure contemporary fans will enjoy this one, and definitely recommend it.