It’s taking me a bit to get to reviewing this, but I made it through this whole book just on my breaks at work by the time I’d written up The Piper’s Son.
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta Life is somewhat difficult for Francesca Spinelli, whose mother has enrolled her at St. Sebastian’s, a school that prior to that year was all boys. Neither teachers nor students seem inclined to change their customs to allow for girls, and the only other girls for Francesca to hang out with are girls who were losers at her old school: crazy, radical Tara Finke, slut Siobhan, and accordian-playing loner Justine. Then things get even worse. Francesca’s mother Mia, always a major force to be reckoned with at home and at work, stops getting out of bed. Francesca and her beloved little brother Luca are sent to separate relative’s houses, while their father keeps trying to pretend that everything will just get better on its own. At school, Tara decides that the girls will make a list of demands, and that Francesca is the best person to bring those demands to their class representative, Will Tromball. Tromball seems to be a jerk who isn’t interested in changing anything – yet their eyes lock every time they see each other. Francesca keeps getting put into detention for things like trying to talk to Luca at school. In detention she meets guitar-obsessed slob Thomas McKee and weirdo Jimmy Hailler, whom she doesn’t really like but who keeps following her home and is able to accomplish the miracle of getting her mother to talk. There are lots and lots of plot strands here, with family, friends old and new, romance, and school, all swirling around Francesca and the identity she’s building for herself in the absence of the people who have in the past always told her who she is: her mother and her clique from her old school. The characters are clearly drawn and easy to root for, despite the (pardon) depressing topic of a seriously depressed mother. As in The Piper’s Son, families are shown as deeply loving despite their problems, friends worth living for despite their quirks. Though Francesca can draw strength from all of them, in the end, the only person who can save Francesca is herself.
As a note, having read both of these books with shared characters now, it was interesting to read Saving Francesca knowing how things with the characters were going to end up. In actual events, though, only a few big events from this book were mentioned in The Piper’s Son. Most of the past events discussed in that book are set in between the two books, which certainly makes it easier to read them separately.