Looking for Alibrandi (2006) is a YA contemporary novel written by Melina Marchetta. It’s available in digital as well as paper. The premise is a coming of age story that contains a nice, brief romance on the side. I found this book utterly compelling and hard to put down.
The author sets her story in her own backyard–the Outback. The story follows 17 year old narrator, Josephine Alibrandi. She comes from a family of Italian immigrants residing in Australia. The conflicts of Josie’s life includes her ethnicity and being illegitimate. It extends further with her wanting to be accepted by the “in crowd” which is comprised of the rich, affluent “Aussie” kids at her Catholic school.
The story is character driven (which is why I loved it) and full of melodrama (which is why I couldn’t put it down). Josephine’s illegitimacy and mixed heritage has made life a challenge for her. Her life is influenced heavily by two women: her mother and her grandmother. Both of whom are strict. Josie’s grandmother loves to tell stories about her life as an European immigrant during the 1950’s. Seems that her grandmother has some hidden secrets that would have had an impact on the family if things were played out differently.
Then there’s the absent father who makes a return appearance after a 17 year absence. Josephine had for most her life written off her non-existent father, Michael Andretti. He’s a barrister who has moved back to town. When life offers Josie a chance to meet her father and get to know him better, it turns out better than she thought. That storyline was the best part of the book for me as we watch them go from awkward strangers to developing a father/daughter relationship that felt believable. Well done storyline. I loved it.
This story was full of absolute win for various reasons – in-depth characterizations with open and honest dialogue with some angst. There were humorous moments as well as sad. It was an emotional roller coaster ride where at times my heart was in my throat. The subject matters that teens face in here and are challenged with are nothing new. It’s the author voice/narrative style that was really the winner here. I feel a glom coming on God help me.
There’s a side romance that I really enjoyed between the “bad boy” and the “good girl” both coming from completely different worlds complete with different socioeconomic backgrounds. The chemistry was fairly hot between them as well as intense stemming from the conflicts that they face. Nothing beyond kisses though. At times the romance was squee worthy but the outcome of it was less than fulfilling but typical given the teen experience. Maybe even hopeful if I put more thought into it.
I’m a romance reader at heart so I was expecting something a little bit different regarding the romance but I had to remind myself that this is Josie’s story and not a romance novel. But don’t get me wrong, the ending didn’t detract anything away from the story as a whole. I really loved reading/watching the relationship develop between Josie and her father. I loved Josephine’s voice and the self-reflections she made about her life & what she’s learned about herself during her last year in high school.
I can’t do this book justice in a review so I give up. All I wanted to do was write: THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME, GO READ IT. I haven’t mentioned all the plot details so there is still a lot left for you to discover on your own should you decide to read it. If you’re looking for a richly diverse, well written story set outside the US with characters who felt real and will keep you on the edge of your seat then let me show you it, “Looking for Alibrandi” by Melina Marchetta. My grade, A.
Note: SarahT from MonkeyBear reviews just wrote up a nice post pointing out why she enjoys reading teen fiction. I enjoy it for the same reasons she does. Some readers won’t read YA fiction stating that the teen angst and rehash of their high school years is nothing they ever want to revisit. I am not a big fan of teen angst either. But I am a fan of good books and YA fiction has provided me with several good reads by authors like Sarah Dessen and Megan Whalen Turner. I have heard that Jennifer Echols is awesome as well. My last thought on the subject: don’t be so quick to dismiss a genre that is exploding with good stories. That’s all.