Apr 18, 2013

Review | Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Title: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary
Publication: 05.09.2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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.

Thoughts: 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 na├»ve 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.” 

The best part about Saving Francesca is probably the humor. While the book revolves around a more serious topic, there are many laugh out loud moments throughout. My favorite part was definitely the writing style. I hadn’t read anything by Marchetta before, but I can definitely say that I look forward to reading other books by her.

“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.


  1. I was curious about this one because it's by Marchetta and it seems like this author can do no wrong! I have yet to read any of her books, but Finnikin of the Rock IS on my TBR. Anyway, great review. I'm glad that you were able to connect with all of the many secondary characters by the end of the book. It can be distracting when there's too many right up front. Interesting that you didn't much like the love interest, yet his presence helped to fuel Francesca's character development. I think I might pick this one up only if it were on audio, too.

  2. I'm glad that even if the topic was serious, there was many humor to it. I'm still curious about this one, and I hope i'll be able to relate more to francesca than you were. Great review!

    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  3. I really love this book. I read it a long time ago, but the story still resonates, and I just love the characters.

  4. I've been thinking about picking this up for a while, and your review made me lean more towards the YES side. I love a good contemporary, and snarky characters are my favorite :) Plus, I love books that are a combination of humor and serious topics.