Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although this involving novel is set in the author's native Australia, American readers will feel right at home, thanks to the charismatic, outspoken narrator, 17-year-old Josephine Alibrandi. A scholarship student at a tony Catholic girls' school, Josie is aware that she is different from her affluent "Aussie" classmates: she's illegitimate, and she's closely tied to her Italian immigrant community. She feels periodically rebellious against her classmates' snobbishness, against the nuns' authority at school, against her community's mores. Even so, Josie clearly regards the women in her life--her single mother, her grandmother and even some of the nuns--with affection as well as exasperation. Josie has less experience dealing with guys until senior year, when three members of the opposite sex complicate her world. Her father, who has not previously known of her existence, arrives on the scene unexpectedly, and she can't help feeling drawn to him. She also becomes involved with two boys her own age: the upper-class but desperately unhappy John Barton and the wilder, iconoclastic Jacob Coote. The casting or plot may sound clich ed, but the characterizations are unusually insightful and persuasive. In articulate, passionate prose, Marchetta weaves the intricate web of Josephine's relationships, juxtaposing her revelations about her family history against current crises (these include John's suicide). If the author loses momentum at the end, straining for tidy closure, she does, simultaneously, leave open new doorways for her heroine. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)
"Although this involving novel is set in the author's native Australia, American readers will feel right at home, thanks to the charismatic, outspoken 17-year-old narrator," said PW. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 1999: Josephine Alibrandi is in her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sydney, Australia. She's a smart-mouthed scholarship student who lives with her mother, with a big chip on her shoulder about both her illegitimacy and her Italian heritage. She squabbles constantly with her grandmother, who clings to her Italian circle of family and friends and always worries about what people will say. When Josie unexpectedly meets her father for the first time, she's taken aback and swears she'll have nothing to do with him; but when she gets into a fight with another girl at school who calls her a wog, she calls her father, a lawyer, to come to her defense and they gradually develop a relationship. Meanwhile, Josie acquires a boyfriend. He wants to be a mechanic, while Josie plans to study law. Their different aspirations, and her refusal to have sex, lead to tension. She learns to appreciate her grandmother when she relates the sad and shocking story of her true love from long ago, which helps to explain some family background. And when a friend commits suicide, Josie realizes that elite students she has always envied are under pressures of their own. It's a year of change and growing self-awareness for the outspoken, emotional 17-year-old, and it's a pleasure getting to know her through her ups and downs. Bits of Australian slang (fairy toast, dunnies) shouldn't slow readers down much, and they'll find Josie's concerns about family, friends, boys, and identity easy to relate to. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House, Knopf, 313p., Ages 15 to adult.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Australian Marchetta tears into hidden prejudices Down Under in this novel about seventeen-year-old Josie coming to terms with her mother, her grandmother, and her Italian heritage. Branded all her life as both a "bastard" and a "wog," scholarship student Josie is fiercely defensive of her single mother, and equally fierce in her hatred of her Old World grandmother until her missing father re-enters the scene. Senior year of high school becomes chaotic as Josie learns the secrets of her past and tries to adapt her new knowledge to relationships at home and at school. As much as she wants to be an Aussie, Josie's fiery Sicilian temperament takes over again and again. She's a believable character, intelligently woven into her landscape by Marchetta. The reader is left knowing a lot more about the stresses within Australian society, while cheering the heroine on.
School Library Journal
Gr 9-12-Melina Marchetta's novel (Orchard, 1999) is an insightful portrait of an intense yet humorous young person. Though illegitimate, the 17-year-old Australian protagonist, Josephine Alibrandi, is a universally recognizable teen wrestling with many of the same worries that assail all high school students. Josie copes with the usual concerns about boys, friends, and where she fits in as a scholarship student at a Catholic school in a Sydney suburb. At the same time that she is trying to sort out complex relationships with her tradition-bound grandmother and her warm, no-nonsense mother, she is confronting her long-absent father. This is a deftly crafted story, and the characters have the ring of reality in their dialogue and actions. Marcella Russo's narration is equally fine, with each character distinctive. She conveys a special piquancy in the accented speech of the immigrant grandmother. Chapter and cassette breaks are underscored with light, jazzy music. This audiobook is a solid selection for any young adult literature list, and a must buy for libraries where teens borrow audiobooks.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library. Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
In this Australian import, Marchetta gets the voice of teenage angst just right in a hormone saturated coming-of-age story. Josephine Alibrandi, 17 and of Italian descent, is torn between her traditional upbringing, embodied by both her immigrant grandmother and her overprotective mother, and the norms of teenage society. A scholarship student at an esteemed Catholic girls' school, she struggles with feelings of inferiority not only because she's poorer than the other students and an "ethnic," but because her mother never married. These feelings are intensified when her father, whom she's just met, enters and gradually becomes part of her life. As Josephine struggles to weave the disparate strands of her character into a cohesive tapestry of self, she discovers some unsavory family secrets, falls in love for the first time, copes with a friend's suicide, and goes from being a follower to a leader. Although somewhat repetitive and overlong, this is a tender, convincing portrayal of a girl's bumpy ride through late adolescence. Some of the Australian expressions may be unfamiliar to US readers, but the emotions translate perfectly. (Fiction. 13-15) .
Read an Excerpt
Panic was my first reaction to the multiple choice options that lay on my desk in front of me. I glanced at the students around me before turning back to question three. I hated multiple choice. Yet I didn’t want to get question three wrong. I didn’t want to get any of them wrong. The outcome would be too devastating for my sense of being.
So I began with elimination. D was completely out of the question, as was A, so that left B and C. I pondered both for quite a while, and just as I was about to make my final decision I heard my name being called.
“I think you mean ‘I beg your pardon,’ don’t you, dear?”
“I beg your pardon, Sister.”
“What are you doing? You’re reading, aren’t you, young lady?”
“Um . . . yeah.”
“ ‘Um, yeah?’ Excellent, Josephine. I can see you walking away with the English prize this year. Now stand up.”
So my final school year began. I had promised myself that I would be a saint for this year alone. I would make the greatest impression on my teachers and become the model student. I knew it would all fail. But just not on the first day.
Sister Gregory walked toward me, and when she was so close that I could see her mustache, she held out her hand. “Show me what you’re reading.”
I handed it to her and watched her mouth purse itself together and her nostrils flare in triumph because she knew she was going to get me. She skimmed it and then handed it back to me. I could feel my heart beating fast.
“Read from where you were up to.”
I picked up the magazine and cleared my throat.
“ ‘What kind of a friend are you?’ ” I read from Hot Pants magazine.
She looked at me pointedly.
“ ‘You are at a party,’ ” I began with a sigh, “ ‘and your best friend’s good-looking, wealthy and successful boyfriend tries to make a pass. Do you: A—Smile obligingly and steal away into the night via the back door; B—Throw your cocktail all over his Country Road suit; C—Quietly explain the loyalty you have toward your friend; D—Tell your friend instantly, knowing that she will make a scene.’ ”
You can understand, now, why I found it hard to pick between
B and C.
“May I ask what this magazine has to do with my religion class, Miss?”
“Yes, dear,” she continued in her sickeningly sarcastic tone. “The one we are in now.”
“Well . . . quite a lot, Sister.”
I heard snickers around me as I tried to make up as much as I could along the way.
Religion class, first period Monday morning, is the place to try to pull the wool over the eyes of Sister Gregory. (She kept her male saint’s name although the custom went out years ago. She probably thinks it will get her into heaven. I don’t think she realizes that feminism has hit religion and that the female saints in heaven are probably also in revolt.)
“Would you like to explain yourself, Josephine?”
I looked around the classroom, watching everyone shrugging almost sympathetically. They thought I was beaten.
“We were talking about the Bible, right?”
“I personally think that you don’t know what we’ve been talking about, Josephine. I think you’re trying to fool me.”
The nostrils flared again. Sister Gregory is famous for nostril-flaring. Once I commented to someone that she must have been a horse in another life. She overheard and scolded me, saying that, as a Catholic, I shouldn’t believe in reincarnation.
“Fool you, Sister? Oh, no. It’s just that while you were speaking I remembered the magazine. You were talking about today’s influences that affect our Christian lives, right?”
Anna, one of my best friends, turned to face me and nodded slightly.
“Well, Sister, this magazine is a common example,” I said, picking it up and showing everyone.
“It’s full of rubbish. It’s full of questionnaires that insult our intelligence. Do you think they have articles titled ‘Are you a good Christian?’ or ‘Do you love your neighbor?’ No. They have articles titled ‘Do you love your sex life?’ knowing quite well that the average age of the reader is fourteen. Or ‘Does size count?’ and let me assure you, Sister, they are not referring to his height.
“I brought this magazine in today, Sister, to speak to everyone about how insulted we are as teenagers and how important it is that we think for ourselves and not through magazines that exploit us under the guise of educating us.”
Sera, another friend of mine, poked her fingers down her mouth as if she was going to vomit.
Sister and I stared at each other for a long time before she held out her hand again. I passed the magazine to her knowing she hadn’t been fooled.
“You can pick it up from Sister Louise,” she said, referring to the principal.
The bell rang and I packed my books quickly, wanting to escape her icy look.
“You’re full of it,” Sera said as we walked out. “And you owe me a magazine.”
I threw my books into my locker and ignored everyone’s sarcasm.
“Well, what was it?” Lee grinned. “A, B, C or D?” “I would have gone with him,” Sera said, spraying half a can of hair spray around her gelled hair.
“Sera, if they jailed people for ruining the ozone layer, you’d get life,” I told her, turning back to Lee. “I was going to go for the cocktail on the Country Road suit.”
The second bell for our next class rang, and with a sigh I made another pledge to myself that I would be a saint. On the whole I make plenty of pledges that I don’t keep.
My name, by the way, is Josephine Alibrandi and I turned seventeen a few months ago. (The seventeen that Janis Ian sang about where one learns the truth.) I’m in my last year of high school at St. Martha’s, which is situated in the eastern suburbs, and next year I plan to study law.
For the last five years we have been geared for this year. The year of the HSC (the High School Certificate), where one’s whole future can skyrocket or go down the toilet, or so they tell us.
From the Paperback edition.