When her private school closes, Francesca is forced to attend the newly co-ed St. Sebastian's, where females aren't exactly welcome. Francesca would turn to her outspoken, wild mother for advice, but unfortunately, she is depressed and won't get out of bed. (Side note: this has come up in so many YA novels I've read lately.) Friendless, unsupported, and adrift in a sea of smelly, obnoxious boys, Francesca needs to figure out how to save herself.
In Saving Francesca, Marchetta writes about a part of high school life that I haven't seen before: the relationships between teenagers who take public transportation (particularly buses) home from school together. It is such a small slice of life, but one that I remember clearly. Different from a school bus, where you know everyone, the public bus is where kids who would never regularly talk to each other end up sitting together. Similar to The Breakfast Club, but twice a day for four years. I had my bus friends: CJ, who would stub out his cigarette on the bottom of his shoe; Angela, who once rolled my socks down into doughnuts and wouldn't let me pull them up, who smoked a tampon on a dare; Shawn, who lied about taking classes at Harvard, but introduced me to the best lip gloss. I loved seeing how the misfits who happened to live near Francesca slowly became the people who knew her best.
Marchetta is skilled at developing characters and making them feel real. I was excited to see that this same group is revisited in The Piper's Son, which has just shot to the top of my TBR pile. My quibble? Who chose these awful covers? The first looks like typical chick lit from 2004 and the second looks like it could be for a WWII novel. There is no justice from the cover gods in this case! Rip the cover off or read it on a kindle, because this novel shouldn't be missed.