These are the last of Melina Marchetta’s books that we will be covering this week. I feel bad about Looking for Alibrandi, but we have our super awesome interview to post tomorrow…
Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son have something in common, other than the similar cast of characters, and that is a subtlety of emotion. A slow build, if you will, to the end when you realize you love each and every one of these characters as if they were your friends, or cousins, or sisters, or brothers, or aunts, or lovers. And your whole life will be different for having taken the time to get to know them.
I barely know what to say about these books and these characters. I feel like we’ve had this long journey together and know just have a silent understanding of one another.
Saving Francesca is, on it’s surface, about a teenage girl trying to cope with her mother’s depression and the idea that she to, might have this dark demon inside her waiting for the right trigger to come out and take over her life. But…that’s not really what the book is about. It’s more about finding your own strength and not being afraid to show your personality to the world, even if they think you’re kind of crazy. It’s about having the right people in your life. Choosing your friends wisely, not just going with the flow. I loved that about this book. The friendships made were so tangible, so important, they almost felt more important than the family shown in the book. At least at this point in Francesca’s life. Also, I listened to the audio book recently and the way the narrator delivers Francesca’s blow-up at her dad near the end of the book is perfectly done.
The Piper’s Son is one of the saddest, happiest books I’ve ever read. There’s so many problems and difficulties and all these THINGS in the way of any of the characters being happy (even the secondary characters) that all you want to do is yell at everyone to work out their crap. And then it takes the whole book, and you’re crying and you just want them to be happy and all together like a big happy family except the family is all torn apart and it makes you cry more. In short, this book is amazing….and should never be read in public.
I get why we paired these two books into one post, they’re companion novels, but they’re different. Francesca has a teenage female protagonist and The Piper’s Son is about a young man in his early twenties. The same people (and some new ones) might be involved, but they are a few years older, some of them even became wiser.
I liked SF. I did. It’s a great story about a girl dealing with her mother’s depression and the horrific tolls it takes on her family. Francesca is an easy girl to relate to and that she’s the driving force in “fixing” her family was really touching. Again, I liked it. TPS on on the other hand, I loved. Thomas Finch Mackee is just one big pile of messed up. His family is spread out all across Australia, he’s been kicked out of his apartment, he’s broke, and completely lost. I fell in love with him instantly. Like every Marchetta novel, there are things that will break your heart, make you laugh, and maybe cry at the same time. She’s just one of the best YA writers ever and I hope, hope, hope you read her magic words.
Saving Francesca was the third of Melina Marchetta’s books I read. I had to order it online, and was really annoyed when I got the book and it wasn’t the cover advertised. Then I read the book and I was even more annoyed to see a soft, angelic looking blond girl on the cover because Francesca is absolutely neither of those things. Usually this stuff doesn’t bother me, but with Saving Francesca it did. Francesca’s heritage and her family are a huge part of this book because they’re a huge part of who she is. This, I think, is the first (and probably only) of Melina Marchetta’s books that looks at just an every day, normal family. A mom and dad, two kids, a gaggle of grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. But even this normal family has problems. Big ones, even. I loved seeing that, and I loved seeing how, even with a family to support her, Francesca still felt alone and lost. I really respect how Melina Marchetta handled Francesca’s mom’s depression. It was so real, and very respectful of an issue so many people roll their eyes at.
But Melina Marchetta’s biggest strength is always building up her relationships between characters. Francesca and her mother, Francesca’s parents, Francesca and her brother, Francesca and her new friends and, last but not least, Francesca and Will Tromball. I loved Will. I loved that he had his own set of issues, but he’s there for Francesca without pushing. Their relationship is in the background of this book, but it’s kind of like the book’s spine anyway. Will brings out all these things in Francesca that she spent years hiding and suppressing, and these things he brings out makes her stronger and better. They made each other stronger and better, and that’s a rare find in YA novels lately.
I loved Saving Francesca so much that when I found out that The Piper’s Son was coming out, I was crazy excited because I loved Thomas Mackee. And The Piper’s Son kind of gutted me. It was, first and foremost, a really fresh take on a young adult book because one of the points of view was not even close to being a teenager, and neither, for that matter, was Thomas. Thomas’s tale is sort of a foil to Francesca’s in a lot of ways. He too has a big family, but where Francesca’s family are nosy and need to butt in, Thomas’s family are spread out all over the place and they’re kind of broken. Seeing the change in Thomas between Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son pretty much broke my heart. The fact that I knew and loved Thomas already made what was already a powerful story turn into a wallop to my gut. It was a hard book to read, and I think perhaps the heaviest of all of Melina Marchetta’s books. But it was also sort of beautiful. The writing was exquisite, and I felt more of Thomas’s pain than I ever really did of Francesca’s. I thought the way we saw the manifestations of that pain in the way Thomas moved and talked and lived was really powerful. I especially enjoyed seeing the change in his relationships that his inner turmoil caused. I especially loved seeing Francesca still kind of refusing to give up on him, because that’s what she does. And I think we got just enough of Will and Francesca to satisfy me that they’re ok and are going to keep being ok and that the buildup of that relationship wasn’t for naught. The only thing I wished for at the end of The Piper’s Son was maybe one more chapter. One more chapter of Thomas feeling some hope and experiencing some happiness. But even if ti wasn’t written out for me, I know he did.