Publisher: Penguin Australia
Publishing date: 2003
Summary: Francesca battles her mother, Mia, constantly over what’s best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian’s, an all-boys’ school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca’s surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos—or worse.
Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months, and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother’s high spirits, she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn’t yet realize that she’s more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St. Sebastian’s, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and—especially—herself.
Rating: 4.5 stars
What you need to know about this book: This is a character-driven book. No! Don't run yet. Hear me out. It does start out pretty slow BUT that's because Francesca is confused, a little lost and it takes a few chapters for her to wake up (and for you to start empathizing with her). But once you do, you won't be able to stop reading. Her voice is honest, funny (she's hilarious, seriously) and to the point. It's the kind of book you look forward to picking back up, like, you're doing something and think "oh, I still have to finish this book" and it puts a smile on your face.
What I loved: The realism of the book. Marchetta doesn't gloss over Mia's depression, quite the contrary. She portrays very accurately what it's like to be a teenager, to not quite know where you fit in and how it feels to have adults telling you what to do all the time. To look at a cute boy and think "my god, what a disgusting pig" because no, teenage boys aren't all perfect and just because they're not doesn't mean they're one-dimensional, shallow people.
Why you should read it: Because not once did I not understand/empathize with the narrator. It's like the author mixed up all the ingredients to make a perfect character and here I am, adoring Francesca and cheering for her like a demented fangirl.
"I look past them to where Will and his friends are sitting, and he catches my eye for a moment and smiles. It's a weird smile, but it reaches his eyes and I bottle it. And I put it in my ammo pack that's kept right next to my soul. The one that holds Mia's scent and Justine's spirit and Siobhan's hope and Tara's passions. Because if I'm going to wake up one morning and not be able to get out of bed, I'm going to need everything I've got to fight this bastard of a disease that could be sleeping inside me."
Do you love her yet?
Why you need to read it right now: This is the kind of book that goes somewhere, you know? Even if not everything is resolved, you see the characters maturing and it gets you a little teary-eyed because you feel like you were there, right along with them as they tried to make sense of life. And you wish them the best, and you're sad to let them go.
It's a short book, but one that will definitely stay in your heart for a long time.