Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca

by Melina Marchetta


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Before there was Eleanor and Park, there was Francesca and Will.

A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship, with humor and heart, perfect for fans of If I Stay, The Spectacular Now, and Looking for Alaska.

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys' school that 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, her social life, and—hardest of all—herself.

Melina Marchetta is the Printz-winning author of Jellicoe Road, as well as Looking for Alibrandi and Finnikin of the Rock.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375829833
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/09/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 258
Sales rank: 264,320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Melina Marchetta lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is a teacher. She is also the author of Looking for Alibrandi, which received numerous awards and was released as a major Australian film. Saving Francesca is her second novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

This morning, my mother didn’t get out of bed.
It meant I didn’t have to go through one of her daily pep talks which usually begin with a song that she puts on at 6.45 every morning. It’s mostly 70s and 80s retro crap, anything from ‘I Will Survive’ to some woman called Kate Bush singing, ‘Don’t Give Up’. When I question her choices she says they’re random, but I know that they are subliminal techniques designed to motivate me into being just like her.
But this morning there is no song. There is no advice on how to make friends with the bold and the interesting. No twelve point plan on the best way to make a name for myself in a hostile environment. No motivational messages stuck on my mirror urging me to do something that scares me every day.
There’s just silence.
And for the first time all year I go to school and my only agenda is to get to 3.15.

School is St Sebastian’s in the city. It’s a predominately all-boys’ school that has opened its doors to girls in Year Eleven for the first time ever. My old school, St Stella’s, only goes to Year Ten and most of my friends now go to Pius Senior College, but my mother wouldn’t allow it because she says the girls there leave with limited options and she didn’t bring me up to have limitations placed upon me. If you know my mother, you’ll sense there’s an irony there, based on the fact that she is the Queen of the Limitation Placers in my life. My brother, Luca, is in Year Five at Sebastian’s so my mother figured it would be convenient for all of us in the long run and my dad goes along with it because no one in my family has ever pretended that my mother doesn’t make all the decisions.
There are thirty of us girls at Sebastian’s and I want so much not to do the teenage angst thing, but I have to tell you that I hate the life that, according to my mother, I’m not actually having.
It’s like this. Girls just don’t belong at St Sebastian’s. We belong in schools that were built especially for us, or in co-ed schools. St Sebastian’s pretends it’s co-ed by giving us our own toilet. The rest of the place is all male and I know what you’re thinking if you’re a girl. What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls? But the reality is that it’s either like living in a fish bowl or like you don’t exist. Then, on top of that, you have to make a whole new group of friends after being in a comfortable little niche for four years. At Stella’s, you turned up to school, knew exactly what your group’s role and profile was, and the day was a blend of all you found comfortable. My mother calls that complacency but whatever it’s called, I miss it like hell.
Here, at Sebastian’s, after a term of being together, the girls haven’t really moved on in the sorority department. I don’t exactly have friends as much as ex-Stella girls I hang around with who I had barely exchanged a word with over the last four years. Justine Kalinsky, for example, came to Stella’s in Year Eight and never actually seemed to make any friends there. She plays the piano accordion. There’s also Siobhan Sullivan, who uses us as a disembarkation point for when one of the guys calls her over. In Year Seven, for a term, Siobhan and I were the most hysterical of friends because we were the only ones who wanted to gallop around the playground like horses while the rest of the Stella girls sat around in semi-circles being young ladies. Most of our free time was spent making up dance moves to Kylie songs in our bedrooms and performing them in the playground until someone pointed out that we were showing off. My group found me just after that, thank God, and I never really spoke to Siobhan Sullivan again. My friends always told me they wanted to rescue me from Siobhan and I relished being saved because it meant that people stopped tapping me on the shoulder to point out what I was doing wrong.
Tara Finke hangs out with us as well. She was the resident Stella psycho, full of feminist, communist, anythingist rhetoric, and if there is one thing I’ve noticed around here, it’s that Sebastian boys don’t like speeches. Especially not from us girls. They’d actually be very happy if we never opened our mouths at all. Tara’s already been called a lesbian because that’s how the Sebastian boys deal with any girl who has an opinion, and because there are only four ex-Stella girls, I assume the rest of us get called the same thing. I could get all politically correct here and say that there’s nothing wrong with being called a lesbian, but it all comes down to being labelled something that you’re not. Tara Finke thinks she’s going to be able to set up a women’s movement at the school, but girls run for miles when they see her coming.
The girls from St Perpetua’s, another Year Seven to Ten school, make up the bulk of the female students. They don’t want to get involved with Tara and her movement because their mothers have taught them to go with the flow, which I personally think is the best advice anyone can get. My mother is a different story. She’s a Communications lecturer at UTS and her students think she’s the coolest thing around. But they don’t have to put up with her outbursts or her inability to let anything go. If it’s not an argument with the guy at the bank who pushed in front of us, it’ll be questioning the rude tone of some service industry person over the phone. She’s complained to personnel at our local supermarket so many times about the service that I’m sure they have photos of my family at the door with instructions to never let us in.
Every day I come home from St Sebastian’s and my mother asks me if I’ve addressed the issue of the toilets, or the situation with subject selection or girls’ sport. Or if I’ve made new friends, or if there’s a guy there that I’m interested in. And every afternoon I mumble a ‘no’ and she looks at me with great disappointment and says, ‘Frankie, what happened to the little girl who sang “Dancing Queen” at the Year Six Graduation night?’ I’m not quite sure what wearing a white pants suit and boots, belting out an Abba hit has to do with liberating the girls of St Sebastian’s, but somehow my mother makes the connection.
So I come home ready to mumble my ‘no’ again. Ready for the look, the lecture, the unexpected analogies and the disappointment.
But she’s still in bed.
Luca and I wait for my dad at the front door because my mother never stays in bed, even if she has a temperature over 40 degrees. But today the Mia we all know disappears and she becomes someone with nothing to say.
Someone a bit like me.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Sparkling dialogue and engaging characters...Francesca’s messy, credible array of emotions and problems will keep readers absorbed to the last, satisfying line."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"A rich exploration of maturation, identity, family, and friendship." —The Bulletin, Starred

"Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself."—Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Teens will relate to this tender novel and will take to heart its solid messages and realistic treatment of a very real problem."—School Library Journal, Starred

Customer Reviews

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Saving Francesca 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta, was one of the best books I have ever read. I could not put this book down once I started reading it. It is witty but still serious and tells the story of depression without being boring. This book is easy to relate to and there are surprises around every corner. Francesca has just left her all-girls¿ school, St. Stella¿s, to attend a boys¿ school, St. Sebastian¿s, that has just opened its doors to girls for the first time. She loses touch with old St. Stella¿s friends, who now attend a different school, and has trouble making new ones. Just when Francesca is getting used to her new school, she finds out that her mother is in the middle of a crisis and can barely get out of bed. Francesca lives in denial and does not tell anyone about her mother¿s condition. Follow Francesca through the good times with her old and new friends and the bad times at home where she wonders how long she can continue to cope. Will her mother ever recover? Will Francesca¿s life ever be ¿normal¿ again? What will happen when she finds out the shocking piece of news that caused her mother¿s breakdown? Did her mother¿s breakdown have anything to do with Francesca? When things get really bad for Francesca, she decides to run away. In returning home, she demonstrates the courage that is necessary to face her fears. Francesca also shows us the value of friendship. Changing schools is a turning point for Francesca because she can recreate herself with her new friends. She branches out more and makes connections that help her survive. When she finds herself faced with the responsibility of taking care of her mother, Francesca also learns what it means to truly love someone and to have that love tested. People of all ages will benefit from reading this book. Francesca teaches us that depression can affect anyone, and that life can change without warning. The story also give us hope in dealing with depression. Francesca¿s story is a story that needs to be told. The author accomplishes this while captivating and entertaining her readers. This book is truly amazing and I give it the highest rating of five stars.
susie_d More than 1 year ago
Francesca is obligated to go to a new school, and not just any school, a school that until now only allowed boys to attend. She does not get to see her group of friends as often as she used to. And, to make matters worse, her mother falls into a state of depression. Francesca is worried about her mother and is frustrated because she can't make it go away. As time passes Francesca forgets who she really is and it takes a group of the oddest, yet very likable, assortment of characters to help her find herself again. Another great book by Melina Marchetta. There were times when I wanted to jump into the book and give Francesca a hug. Yet, there were other times where it was impossible not to burst out laughing. By far my favorite character is Thomas. He is pretty immature, but he also is one of the funniest characters in the book.
CherieReads More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading for parents of teenage girls. The author really does a great job of showing the angst that is the teenage girl's life at 16. It's written honestly without being over-the-top like many other YA novels. It's also a window into the lives of a family dealing with depression and how it can affect each member of a family so profoundly. The author evokes emotion well and the cast of characters is fleshed out well. I really ached for this girl. Super read. Highly recommended.
Corey Perkins More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was very good and relatable to a teenagers life as well! (:
Guest More than 1 year ago
Francesca¿s mother, Mia, is suffering from debilitating depression and Francesca doesn¿t know what to do. She is shocked and angry when she learns the events that led up to the depression. She lashes out at her dad and tells him her mother will get better if he he¿d only let her mother vent. He tells her that he¿s respecting her privacy. She tells him he hiding because he¿s a coward. He decides to take Francesca¿s advice and listens as his wife opens up about her sadness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Melina Marchetta brought out real problems in her book, Saving Francesca. Marchetta used realistic dialog that fit in with the teenaged theme of the book. In this book, Marchetta uses realistic situations to draw out the issue of depression. The book begins at the point in time that Francesca¿s mother stops getting out of bed. Though confused, Francesca is also happy that her mother is not lecturing her. Francesca is a high school student at St. Sebastian¿s. St. Sebastian¿s was an all boy school the year before so more than 50% is boys. Francesca hates going to St. Sebastian¿s but ends up making new friends, and one more more-than-just-a-friend friend. Francesca begins doing anything she can to help her mother with her depression. But, when Francesca uncovers the reason for her mother¿s sudden depression she becomes furious at her father and runs away. When she is brought back she realizes her father¿s strength and his love for her and who her true friends are. Saving Francesca is a great novel that brings out the very common problems of being a teenager and the less common problem of depression. By using realistic dialogue and situations Marchetta has created a convincing and realistic novel that you won¿t be able to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I just finished it today and it was awsome. Some parts weren't that great but others were. At first I thought it was going to be like zoey 101 becuase of the girls going to an all boys school, but it wasn't really. this book was an overal good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book! i really like how francesca starts out thinking that all the boys are gross, and by the end you see how sweet they are. i loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Saving Francesca is a wonderfully honest book. Things aren't perfect for Francesca, but all the things she thought were horrible -her new school, among them- turn out to be blessings in disguise. My favorites characters were Francesca and her friends Justine, Jimmy, and Thomas. This is a great book with a great message of being yourself and making the best of any situation. Loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a good book.I just read a bad book and this book got me reading again.It does leave a few blanks but it's great.Read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Saving Francesca was a truly marvelous book. Francesca is sixteen years old, living with her parents and younger brother, Luca. Her family almost always gets along well. Her mother runs the family, and is forcing Francesca to attend St. Sebastian's, a former all-boys school that opened its doors to girls this year. Everything is going okay 'with the exception of Francesca hating school' until one morning, her mother can't get out of bed. And her mother is continually unable to get out of bed. She has acute depression. Francesca has to find a way to deal with this, plus the fact that she and her brother are being sent to live with various family members, plus she hates school, plus she just might be in love with a guy who she hates but totally loves, all at the same time. How could you not love this book? Francesca is a totally relatable character. I love her because she has a good head on her shoulders and she didn't fall apart when awful things started happening. Plus, she is very wise. I would reccommend this book to anybody who is over 12 years old 'this book does have some underage drinking and a bit of sexual material, but it's not really that bad'. I have read it over and over and still love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book finaly got me out of my not reading mood. The book is great and brings up real isues not just fake ones. We all need to know that real friends will stick even if you do something terrible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got the book for my birthday and let me tell you the cover made it look like one of those every-guy-is-fighting-for-you books so I wasn't to interested. I started reading it and couldn't believe it was actually a great book. Its cookies and cream with a big dose of reality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let me tell you, Saving Francesca is as real a book as there is. Trust me, I've had a lot of similar experiences with depression and stuff, and this book is just so completely real. It's painfully good, that's how good it is. It's just...simply amazing. But I've got to tell you, I'm not too crazy about the new cover art. It looks totally fake and really doesn't relate to the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book randomly at my school library, and I'm only halfway through it, but I can tell you, it's one of THE BEST I've ever read. And I read a lot. The characters are so REAL and unforgettable. READ THIS BOOK! You'll like it, I promise! =D
Guest More than 1 year ago
Francesca has been forced, by her mother, to attend an all boy's school that has recently been turned co-ed. She has to learn to cope without her old school friends, who really don't understand her at all, her immature male peers, and with her mother's new acute depression. Francesca does find hope through old friends, new ones, falling in love, and just being herself! I strongly reccomend listening to this story on tape, since Rebecca Macauley captures Francesca's spirit perfectly. Anyone who has or knows someone who has suffered depression will understand what Francesca and her family goes through. Saving Francesca is one of the best books for teenage girls to read...since we're on the path to self discovery and looking for others who understand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of my favorite books , it was reccomended by a friend of mine. Don't let this book pass you by! being in a catholicschool myself, without really being super-religious, i could relate to Francesca's character , this book combines a great story with vivid, deep characters unlike the shallow stereotypes that are insulting our intelligence in most of the contemporary stupid teen novels, this work is mature without being boring
Guest More than 1 year ago
After suffering from a severe form of depression, I was somewhat unfortable when it was brought to my attention that the book we were going to be reading for english at school, was about the illness. After persistance, I started reading 'Saving Francesca' and I could not put it down. I am glad my class read this book as now they have some understanding of what I am going through when I am on a low!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is seriously one of the best books I have ever read! It describes every emotion and it is truely believable. I could not put it down, I finished it in one day and have re-read it 3 times. READ IT!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I could not put it down. Francesca was wonderful and amazing. any girl that has lost her way even a little should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story gets five gold stars from me. I loved it. I did not wnat to put it down. It is so interesting!! The part i loved about it it most books dont sound real, but this is so not one. IT seem so real!
Guest More than 1 year ago
OH MY FLIP!!!!! it was really good i lvoed it and if i could i would marry this not reallly? But it was really good i loved it and you would too just ya know read it and youll be in love!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one of the best books i've ever read. It took me 2 days to read the whole thing. I was laughing out loud at some parts too. I love romance and this was perfect because it had a plot that made this book unique. I wish that there was a phsical description of the characters though. You'll get hooked after the first chapter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was extremely poignant, honest, and descriptive where it counts the most (in our minds). An excellent story (that is not limited to just her mother) that I would recommend to anyone!