I’m not even going to pretend that this review is going to have much coherency or critical value – I’ll just be upfront here and admit that it will be more of a gush than a review. Melina Marchetta’s books were amongst my first encounters with young adult fiction, “Looking For Alibrandi” being intrinsic to Australian high school English curricula. I read ‘Saving Francesca’ when I was a couple of years out of high school, and I distinctly recall how much this book spoke to me and my teenage experience. At the risk of sounding cliché here, it felt like Marchetta had taken all those feelings I had harboured inside, unable to express, and captured them on paper, solid and tangible. Francesca and her mother’s story resonated with me, and I found myself in tears (and still do when I re-read it) because I had never read such a clear and honest echo of the feelings tied up in mental illness and mother/daughter relationships. In fact, my mother later read this book and was able to tell me how much she saw of herself in Mia’s experience, which is something we had not been able to speak about very easily before. I think that the heart of Marchetta’s stories, and what makes her writing so powerful and real, are her characters. They are not mere vehicles for a story – they are the story. They are all people who might exist in our world, reflections of ourselves and those that fill our lives. Marchetta writes genuine characters - nuanced and flawed – and honest relationships. She shows the different shades to love, be it familial or romantic. And she doesn’t flinch away from the side of loving someone that can be painful or hard – that what we want from people and what they actually are can be different things, and are not always easy to align. In this way, the Spinelli family is touchingly, and realistically, portrayed throughout the novel. While the plot of Saving Francesca is relatively quiet, the story is compelling. Largely driven by Francesca’s character growth in the face of her mother’s illness, attending a new school, feeling alienated from her friends and learning to understand herself, the prose is beautifully written and engaging. Moreover, the depiction of the Australian high school experience, and teenagers in general, is authentic and incredibly relatable. Saving Francesca is definitely one of my favourites of all time, and highly recommended.