Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca
Melina Marchetta
Published 2004 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Most of the time, I'll finish a book and then move on with my life. There's always something else to do, read, see. Books pass through and leave little trace beyond a vaguely fond memory. But sometimes I stumble across a book that is special. It makes me forget about bedtime and my early-morning alarm. I finish it and instead of moving on, I'm reminded of how to sit and just be.

I will assume that you've figured out by now that Saving Francesca is one of those books. It's not my usual fare. There are no wizards or dragons, and no one is trying to kill anyone else. And yet I devoured it in a single sitting. It had That Thing. That Thing is what makes books great. That Thing is ephemeral and ineffable and all those other words you say when you can't figure out how to say something magical. That Thing takes good books and makes them real and emotional and spectacular.

Maybe a little bit of That Thing is the characters. They're all real and relatable; they feel like people I know rather than people who live inside the pages of a book. Their issues, their sorrows, their joys, all felt immediate and personal. And Saving Francesca had a refreshingly normal portrayal of high school – one filled with people rather than stereotypes. It's probably the most accurate fictional high school I've seen, in a genre over-filled with life-sized cardboard "popular" crowds.

Maybe another piece of That Thing is the voice. Francesca sounds like she's just talking, something that can be annoying but isn't here. It makes her problems feel much more real and human. It made me laugh out loud and tear up a little when she cried.

Maybe a third part of That Thing is hope. Because as tough as life is for Francesca and her family, there's always hope in the end. It made me want to keep reading. It makes me want more of this story even after I've finished.

If you're in one of those moods where you're skipping to the end of the review to read my overall impressions, I can sum them up for you in three words. Read. This. Book.

Quality: Outstanding
Enjoyability: Outstanding

Saving Francesca is similar to:
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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