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Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta Infinite number of STARS!!!

If there is one reading experience I'd like to re-live over and over again it would have to be the first time I read [b:Saving Francesca|82434|Saving Francesca|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865374s/82434.jpg|18042740]. I was on a contemporary YA streak and had just finished the brilliant [b:Where She Went|8492825|Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)|Gayle Forman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347810457s/8492825.jpg|10706553] by [a:Gayle Forman|295178|Gayle Forman|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1271630502p2/295178.jpg]. One of the top reviews for that book mentioned was that it had the same feel as [b:The Piper's Son|7417780|The Piper's Son|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1333662548s/7417780.jpg|9362085], which when I looked up said that it was a companion novel to [b:Saving Francesca|82434|Saving Francesca|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865374s/82434.jpg|18042740]. Naturally, I had to read the latter first.

I was unaware of [a:Melina Marchetta|47104|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1277655889p2/47104.jpg]'s work prior to reading this book. I wasn't sure what to expect. The description in the back of the book normally wouldn't make me pick it up. Basically, the story revolves around Francesca as she struggles to fit in her new school while dealing with her mother's acute depression at home. The subject is nothing we haven't heard of, yet by the end of the book I felt that I had just read something unforgettable. This, as I have found out after reading all her books, is the Marchetta magic. She writes so beautifully and so honestly that even the simplest of subjects turn into something deep, moving and thought-provoking.

Francesca openly resents her transfer to the newly co-ed school, St. Sebastian's. Unfortunately for her, her former school, St. Stella's, only goes up to Year 10 and all of her friends had transferred to a different school. At first glance, St. Sebastian's seem to be your average teenage girl's dream school, seeing that there are presently only 30 female students in the entire student population. Boy heaven, right? Wrong. St. Sebastian's boys are absolute slobs and have no regard for the new female presence in their school. They fart and burp and clutch their crotches everywhere. Furthermore, there are limited opportunities for female student participation in school programs. Their school plays only call for male roles and there are no sports teams for girls. And as if that kind of oppression isn't enough, Francesca's having a tough time making new friends.

Her home life isn't any livelier. Her mom, Mia, is usually on her case, asking everyday if she made any new friends, if there are cute guys that caught her eye, or if she had done something significant and important that would set her apart from the rest of her peers. She's also constantly giving motivational speeches. That is, until that one fateful day when she decided not to get up from bed. Days and then weeks go by with Mia still in bed, and suddenly, their family is handicapped. Mia was their leader, their decision-maker. Now, Francesca, her dad and her younger brother Luca, feel lost and unable to function properly.

"The depression belongs to all of us. I think of the family down the road whose mother was having a baby and they went around the neighborhood saying, 'We're pregnant.' I want to go around the neighborhood saying, 'We're depressed.' If my mum can't get out of bed in the morning, all of us feel the same. Her silence has become ours, and it's eating us alive."

Despite the somber themes, I found myself laughing numerous times throughout the book. I would be sad and tearing up one moment and suddenly an unexpectedly funny event is injected and my cheeks would ache from uncontrollable bouts of laughter. Things DO look up for Francesca and it was an absolute joy to read about her making friends and falling in love with the boy she least expects to fall for.

"I just stare at him. I want to ask him a thousand questions, but I can tell he doesn't want to be asked. 'We make weird friends,' I say instead.
'I've never been into the f-word with people.'
'I'm privileged, then? Why me?'
He thinks for a moment then shrugs again. 'You're the most realest person I've ever known.'
'Is the good or bad?'
'It's f*cking awful. There's not much room for bullsh*t and you know how I thrive on it.'"

'Have you ever seen The Last of the Mohicans?'
'I love it.'
'Really?' I'm over the moon. We share a movie. Finally, we're on the same planet.

“Do you think people have noticed that I'm around?"
"I notice when you're not. Does that count?”

I can't express how much I loved being in Francesca's head. I felt her confusion over her mom's state, her feelings of loneliness, her heart-thuds when she talks to her crush, her devastation when she finds out that he has a girlfriend. And although this was a pretty uneventful book, I loved reading about the simple, mundane things like their bus rides and their time spent in detention. I can't NOT emphasize enough how much I adored the friendship in this book, or any other Marchetta book, for that matter. Frankie's friends are absolute GEMS- Tara with her strong political and social convictions, Siobhan with her quest to find "The ONE," Justine with her limitless loyalty and her adorable crush, Jimmy with his infinite wisdom and Tom with his frankness and lack of inhibitions. All of them were so different from each other and yet, they gelled well and had each other's backs. And like I mentioned earlier, there were tons of funny scenes as well as touching ones.

I guess the main reason why I fell head over heels in love with this book is that the characters were portrayed so realistically. Even the object of Frankie's affections wasn't your typical hot guy. Frankie messed up multiple times in the book. She wasn't your poster child for the dutiful daughter or the great friend. She was just herself.

I know people automatically think of [b:On the Jellicoe Road|1162022|On the Jellicoe Road|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1212708945s/1162022.jpg|6479100] when Marchetta is mentioned but this one truly touched me the most out of all her books. I've read this book 4x in a span of less than a year, and if that isn't indicative enough of how much I loved it then I don't know what is. I would recommend this to anyone who would love to read about a mother-daughter relationship and a great friendship, to anyone who loves the feeling of first loves and all the squeeing and disappointment that come with it, to anyone who wants to be moved by an honest story, and to anyone who wants to feel hope. It is just an overall feel-good read and I guarantee you won't finish it without a tear in your eye or a smile on your face.