Looking for Alibrandi

Looking for Alibrandi

4.6 40
by Melina Marchetta

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For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the


For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.

Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Publishers 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 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: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House, Knopf, 313p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Paula Rohrlick
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.|
Kirkus Reviews
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) .

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Random House Children's Books
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12 - 17 Years

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.

Meet the Author

Melina Marchetta lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is a teacher. She is also the author of Printz-winning Jellicoe Road, as well as Saving Francesca and Finnikin of the Rock.

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Looking for Alibrandi 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Looking For Alibrandi is the first novel by Australian author, Melina Marchetta. The year that Josephine Alibrandi turned seventeen was filled with life-changing events: she had to pass her HSC; she met her father for the first time; she fell in love; she learned some shocking facts about her family; and someone close to her committed suicide. She also learned the importance of family, of knowing her history, of being responsible, of having good friends and of being one. Marchetta’s novel touches on reputation, on the stigma of illegitimacy in certain cultures, on sex in young adults, on the assimilation of different cultures and on the expectation to follow in parents footsteps. It is easy to see how this novel would appeal to younger readers: the issues are relevant even if references to songs, events and personalities mean that it is a bit dated now. It is no surprise that it won the 1993 Children’s Book of the Year Award for Older Readers, the 1993 Multicultural Book of the Year Award and the 1993 Variety Club Young People’s Category of the 3M Talking Book of the Year Award. A moving read.
JessicaCoffee More than 1 year ago
Okay okay okay okay. I'm doing five stars, because I loved it and I cried like an idiot and I love how human Melina makes all of her characters. Obvious motives or not, good reasons or not, all people make choices and say things and have regrets, and as with all of Melina's writing (or the five I've read now), she never fails to make the characters totally and completely and utterly HUMAN. Josie is human. Josie's mom is human. Josie's grandma is human. Michael is human. John is human. Jacob is human. (Poison) Ivy is human. The sisters are human. I could go on and on, but the gist of my point is this: when you're human, you make mistakes. Sometimes you regret them. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes it takes ten minutes to learn from them. Sometimes it takes decades. And every single person who comes into your life can teach you something, but you won't always learn this until it's too late. Sadly, we don't always learn this. Josie did. This probably sounds weird and I hope it doesn't offend anyone, but Melina Marchetta is my Sarah Dessen. Now excuse me, but I must go. I need more tissues.
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MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Melina Marchetta is Australian. According to the backflap copy for this book, she lives in Sydney where she teaches English at an all-boys high school. After the 1992 debut of her first novel Marchetta found herself in an interesting position. Looking for Alibrandi won every major literary award for young adult literature in Australia so that Marchetta subsequently had to teach her own book to her students. All told, not a bad problem to have. Ten years later Saving Francesca came out and also garnered a lot of praise and awards (as well as regularly being in my Top Five). In short, Melina Marchetta is a pretty big deal. I enjoy her books because they feel like her characters are living lives that I might have had were things different. Apparently, and I'm embarassed to say I only found this out yesterday, Looking for Alibrandi was also adapted into a movie in Australia in 2000 with Marchetta writing the screenplay. I wish I could find the DVD. Set in Australia, this novel deals with a sub-community that I didn't even know Australia had: Italians. Narrator, Josie, comes from an Italian family that immigrated to Australia. At a Catholic school she doesn't like, surrounded by people who don't understand the Italian part of her culture, seventeen-year-old Josie feels adrift. Josie has a lot of women in her life. She lives with her mother and (much to her frustration) spends afternoons with her grandmother until her mom can pick her up. Josie's father isn't a part of the picture. He never has been. And what I like about this novel, is that it isn't a big deal-it's just life. No complex explanation, no pang of longing for the father she never met, he's just no around. Or is he? Things get more complicated for Josie and her mom when Josie's long-absent father suddenly reappears. After living without him for so long, Josie isn't sure he's worth her time now. In this thread of the novel, Marchetta does an excellent job exploring how Josie can acquaint herself with one of the people she should know better than anyone else. Amidst this family confusion, Josie finds herself caught between two very different young men. Josie has always been attracted to John Barton, and with good reason. His life seems to have been handed to him on a silver platter. From a rich family, bound for law school, and good-looking, John seems to have everything going for him. Still, as John finally notices Josie and open up to her, Josie is shocked to find that John isn't nearly as content as she would have guessed. Jacob Coote, on the other hand, is completely comfortable in his own skin. From a working class family, Jacob is confident about his own bright future (and his ability to get there by sheer force of will). Drawn to Jacob's radical ideas and striking personality, it's hard to tell if Josie and Jacob are perfect for each other or too similar to ever really last. Looking for Alibrandi is a novel with many facets and many plots. All of the characters are dimensional, adding their own stories to the larger narrative of the novel. In addition to an excellent dissection of family relations, Looking for Alibrandi is one of the best novels about the immigrant experience I have ever read. Yes, Josie is probably third generation if not later, and true these characters are immigrants to Australia and not the USA. Still, the novel offers admirable commentary to anyone interested in immigration (and assimilation) in America and elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jarujav More than 1 year ago
After reading Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, I fell in love with the way she creates her characters. I've read all of her books that have been released in the US, and they are all phenomenal.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book read it when i was 15 at school and ive read it so many time its falling apart. Its a must read for all australians and is what most teachers assign in their english classes. The themes and issues are able to be related to all readers in all countries around the world. However some jokes will only be understood by those living in Australia, just as some of you joke etc are lost to me when reading and watching shows from the US. A must read no matter your age.
Katie_Marvell More than 1 year ago
This book was great, just like every other book by Melina Marchetta that I have read. It was something I could really understand even though I have never had an Italian family or lived in Australia. I think everyone can related to this book in some way or another and it is definitly worth the read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book would be about some hopeless chick who would just gripe about how the world was so unfair. Boy, was I wrong! I really liked the main character, Josephine (Josie) because she was a strong, optimistic person who never gave up even when her world was crashing down. And I also liked how she was aware if she was being mean to people she loved because it made her more real to me. The book was really funny, but also really sad. I liked how it reading it made you feel so many emotions at once.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so wonderful. In the begining i started reading and thought, i can't really relate to her lifestyle, but through the personality quirks and different characters there evolves an intamicy to the story that is so hypnotizing. In comparison to her other novel Saving Francessca, I thought this one was ten times BETTER!!! You should really readd this book for the romance, scandal, family and learning how to grow up. 'i'dreccommend dit for girls aged 14-18'
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing, romantic, sad, funny, exciting, and everything else. marchetta is my all time favorite author and i read her other books. i cant wait for her to make more. GET THIS BOOK. i did :]
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book has everything i wanted. it has romance, it has substance, it also has a meaning. And while it's not perfect, it touches you in way that makes you want to read it over and over again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Looking for Alibrandi when I first read it as a teenager years and years and years ago. I have waited impatiently for Melina Marchetta's next book which has finally arrived! Keep your eye open for 'Saving Francesca'. It is absolutely fantastic. A great story about Francesca and her relationship with her family and the friends she meets at school. Must read if you loved Looking for Alibrandi!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is a really fantastic book. It was almost as if it were a true story of a real girl. I recommend it to all of my friends. Reading this book to me out of the U.S. and put me in Australia. In response to the parent: If a child reads this and you think that this is to mature for that child then don't have them read it. Don't try to blind someone from reality because these things happen every day so when faced with these kind of problems maybe that child who reads this book will have the sense enough to know what to do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE this book, I'm 16 and I can relate to this book in so many ways. This is how life really is for girls in Australia, they get it so right!!! It's inspirational and educational, and I'd recommend it to anyone!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking for Alibrandi is a wonderful novel full of inspiration and information. This novel is about a young women named Josephine Alibrandi who is trying to fit in with her peers. Throughout Josie's final year at a wealthy, private school she finds out who she really is inside and learns many things about her past heritage, life and realationships. This book is great for teenagers and also for adults to understand some of the difficulties teenagers may experience in school years. I think that this novel is a great read that everyone would enjoy. Thank-you so much Melina Marchetta:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think about this book. It will seriously make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. The narrator/protagonist is strong, a tad naive, and extremely funny. I stayed up late and skipped meals to finish this book. It's that good!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is really cool~~ and realistic~~none of that fairy godmother stuff~~ and +++++ oh well, u should really read it cuz, it really shows how scary growin up iz!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read these reviews on this book I can't help overcome what I wrote in my 1st review, in April, 1999. I couldn't put the book in more better words at the time. I feel every school in the major countries in the world should make this book for require reading. Like Australia did for there High School Exams for college. I feel this is require reading because it deals with a lot of issues that teenage people go through and etc. The main character could be someone we could of knew at a time and we could lived in the that kind town and so on. I know it did for me, what I mention above.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Looking for Alibrandi' was an excellent novel. I enjoyed it greatly. The Introduction to the novel was whitty and clever. I could understand, Josie and relate to her.