Francesca has no identity; her “friends” are finishing high school elsewhere (and forgotten who Francesca is) while she goes to an all boys’ school that has started accepting girls; her mother is having a nervous breakdown; she blames her father; and she just doesn’t want to do anything to change the status quo. Things start changing when she spontaneously combusts and yells what she really thinks about him at one of the boys from school. From there, well, it gets interesting.
Marchetta impressed me with Looking for Alibrandi and she doesn’t disappoint here. It might be clichéd, but Marchetta gives Francesca an authentic teen voice. It doesn’t feel like it’s been sterilised so it has no swearing or underage drinking or mention of sex, no mid-day movie teen thing here where their problems aren’t really that serious and can be solved quickly.
Francesca is more than flawed she is real and messy. I like Francesca and I like how she grows and develops. In fact, I would say that Francesca is a great role model. It is horrible to have people decide who you should be and how you should act (don’t be too loud and outspoken, don’t be too shy, don’t hang with losers) and for you to follow their rules only to lose that idea of who you are when those people disappear from your life. But Francesca does something amazing; she starts being herself even when she has no idea who that is. There are many lessons in this story and this is just one of them.
Another lesson is when her mother is questioning Francesca’s father about who he would be if they removed the family from the equation and his response was always “dead”. That question wasn’t just for him, it was for all of them. And in those moments of darkness when they weren’t functioning normally, Francesca found her inner strength and who she is. She became independent (which isn’t some scary, lonely thing).
At first I thought this was the perfect example of feminism. We begin in a school that was predominantly male and the girls are tolerated, not really given consideration when decisions are made and are told mostly to shut up and not rock the boat and be happy that you’re even allowed to be here. And it does have a strong sense of feminism. Just that that’s not the main thing for the story. It’s about choosing friends because you like each other and not because you’re better than them, having fun, and expressing. Never be afraid to express because bottling it up and hoping it will go away kills you.
My one and only issue is how it just ends. Marchetta does amazing, her stories don’t have a pretty bow on them with all of the answers, they’re more about giving the character understanding why things are happening and letting them live their lives. I just wish that there was more, especially with Will. Francesca and Will were cute.