It’s been a hot minute since I last touched on my nostalgia series, so we’re kicking it back off again this month with Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. I feel this book is either beloved by young Australians or hated because of its HSC connections. Either way, it’s a solid debut novel from Marchetta.
Synopsis from Goodreads: For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.
Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the no-nonsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.
Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.
What I remembered
I’ve only read this book a handful of times – nowhere near as much as I’ve seen the movie. I also saw the movie long before I read the book, so there will always be a little disconnect in how I remember things.
The whole John Barton story was the saddest thing to have ever been written in my teenage opinion but I was always a Jacob Coote gal through and through.
While I was reading
First of all, I had completely forgotten that Poison Ivy and Carly were two different characters and I actually think they made the right choice in combining them in the movie. I had also completely forgotten that Josie had another friend – Lee – and I think it was a strange choice not to include her in the movie, she was definitely the most likeable of Josie’s friends!
If I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t love Josie’s voice in this – maybe it’s just because I’m so used to popping on the movie now or maybe it’s because I am growing apart from the voice of YA books these days – either way, she kind of annoyed me a little.
When I think beyond my surface feelings about the jolts between trains of thought or completely different topics, I guess the voice of Josie is pretty accurate to how an intelligent 17 year old girl would write so there’s not much to complain about! As I was reading though, I often rolled my eyes at how she talked about things and the way she seemed to skip around a lot between her thoughts.
I also really loved coming across those lines that they’d taken straight from the page and put into the movie.
After I finished reading
It’s clear why this book was chosen as a text for the HSC – so many themes, so many good quotes!! I almost wish I could go back in time and have this as the book I chose to write essays on (not that it was a choice in the year that I went through). Unfortunately, I don’t really want to deal with all the nightmares that come along with the HSC so I’ll leave that time travel to some other nerd.
Despite my distaste for YA books these days, I actually really enjoyed revisiting this book! There were little bits that annoyed me but none of the behaviours of any of the characters felt too out of place and it all felt very real to me.
I actually felt like hardly any time at all was devoted to the aftermath of John Barton’s suicide – it almost felt like the weight of it wasn’t really felt. Jacob and Josie’s relationship also comes to an abrupt end which I didn’t love!
Overall though, I love the twists and turns in the family relationships throughout the book. While I am very glad that I never had to go through anything like Josie in my final year of high school, I think her story is an intriguing one and it hooks me in every time, whether by page or on the screen.