I've put off reading [b:Looking for Alibrandi|1974972|Looking for Alibrandi|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1255952329s/1974972.jpg|1149644] due to other Goodreaders' warnings that this book isn't nearly as good as [a:Melina Marchetta|47104|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1277655889p2/47104.jpg]'s other works. After all, it is her debut novel and it was first published over 20 years ago - back when teased hair, shoulder pads and Vogue-ing were what's considered contemporary. I've repeatedly declared my love for Ms. Marchetta's writing and I was afraid to tarnish her "perfect score" in my head. And after finishing Alibrandi, I do have to agree that it's not my favourite among her work, but it has more to do with my preference of writing style rather than the actual story. Firstly, it was written in first person POV, which I am not a huge fan of. Secondly, there was her tendency to be overly descriptive, especially in the beginning of the book. The writing does get better as the story progressed. And despite being imperfect, I still found this to be better written than most books I've read, YA or not. The story is moving. Her intent is obvious. And you'd see the skill or its potential, at least. I don't know why it took her over a decade to release her next novel but I'm glad she didn't settle for mediocrity. I read that she was a teacher during that period and I'm sure she was busy honing her craft, because when she finally produced [b:Saving Francesca|6977133|Saving Francesca|Melina Marchetta|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348562189s/6977133.jpg|18042740], her storytelling was absolutely amazing. Each succeeding book have since proved to be better than the last and all of them have NOT failed to touch me with her beautiful writing.
So what's this book about? Josephine Alibrandi is a 17-year old girl who struggles to fit in her school and among her peers. She is a scholarship kid among the rich and privileged, as well as a "person of colour" (being of Italian descent) in a sea of white kids. In addition to what she perceives as a disadvantage, she also grew up being the object of ridicule of some kids due to her being from a single-parent home and being an illegitimate child. She was raised single-handedly by her mom, who had her when she was just a teenager herself, after her father moved to Adelaide shortly after she was conceived and not knowing about her existence at all. Things change, however, when her dad moves back to Sydney and it's impossible for Josie to avoid him, seeing that he belongs to their tiny Italian community and is well-liked by her grandmother. She's determined that she'll be content not having a relationship with him. However, she later realizes that she needs him more than she cares to admit to.
In typical Marchetta fashion, the characters and the story are realistic and imperfect. Josie is a girl with glasses, baby fat and unruly hair. She is insecure and angsty. She acts and says things without thinking most of the time, thereby getting her constantly in trouble at school and with her mom and grandmother. Then there's her father Michael, whose presence she unexpectedly craves. There is also a swoonworthy boy by the name of Jacob Coote, who makes the perfect recipient of Josie's love and heartbreak.
I really found Josie's voice refreshing and real. I easily related to her thoughts and feeilngs, being raised by a single parent myself, being lower middle class within a relatively wealthy community, and being a "mixed" kid in a predominantly mono-cultured school for 12 years of my life. It's true, kids can be mean and at that time, what people around you say can really scar you. I felt vindicated when Josie finally learned to let go of the opinions of people who don't
matter. I think it was great that her eventual understanding of her culture and upbringing was so honestly portrayed. Her growth was touching to read about, as were her relationships with her mom, her dad, her peers and her boyfriend. I cried buckets when she finally learned to forgive and accept.
Overall, I found this book to be a great read. It's no wonder why it is a widely recognized literary piece in Australia. It tackled the subject of families, multiculturalism, racism, first loves, sex, friendships, dreams, sacrifice, death, social exclusion, and even religion. I highly recommend this to the teens of today, even though some might roll their eyes at the generation gap present, being an older novel and all. Older readers will definitely appreciate this better.