Gr 9 Up-There have been lots of changes for Francesca as she starts Year Eleven at St. Sebastian's, a formerly all-boys school that has grudgingly admitted 30 coeds. She misses her old friends, but mostly she misses her mother, a strong vocal communications lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, who has slipped into a severe depression and can't get out of bed. Francesca is also facing challenges at school. Suddenly, she's hanging out with new friends, girls who were so uncool at St. Stella's, and it's impossible to talk things over with her mother as she once did. Life gets more complicated when she develops a crush on Will Trombal, who can't seem to make up his mind whether he wants to be with her or his current girlfriend. The trials continue throughout the year, and a conflict with her father brings everything to a head. At that point Francesca begins to understand what really matters, who her friends are, and, most importantly, who she is. This is a complex, deliberately paced, coming-of-age story. It is only through a long, hard climb that Francesca eventually begins to have hope again, but there is still a long way to go at the story's closing. Despite the seriousness of the subject and some occasional strong language, the book also has great characterizations, witty dialogue, a terrific relationship between Francesca and her younger brother, and a sweet romance. Teens will relate to this tender novel and will take to heart its solid messages and realistic treatment of a very real problem.-Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting but not particularly accommodating to girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). 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. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.