Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary:Seventeen-year-old Josephine Alibrandi is no stranger to conflict. If she’s not caught between her strict single mom and her even stricter grandmother, then she’s trying to choose between wealthy good boy John Barton and working-class bad boy Joseph Coote. Josephine is always in trouble with the nuns at her Catholic school (who everyone calls “penguins because of them wearing wimples and all that Sound of Music gear”) because she fights with native Australian kids over her mixed Australian/Italian heritage. Just when she thinks her situation couldn’t possibly get more complicated, her mysterious, long-lost biological father comes back and Josephine must decide if it’s worth getting to know this person who abandoned her and her mother. But through it all–including a startling revelation from her grandmother and the suicide of a close friend–Josephine manages to hold on to her sense of humor, as in this reflective moment: “I could have been a model for Hot Pants. Except that when I finally put my glasses on, reality set in. Hot Pants would have to wait.”
Summary 2: A scholarship student at a tony Catholic girls’ school, Josie is aware that she is different from her affluent “Aussie” classmates: she’s illegitimate, and she’s closely tied to her Italian immigrant community. She feels periodically rebellious against her classmates’ snobbishness, against the nuns’ authority at school, against her community’s mores. Even so, Josie clearly regards the women in her life–her single mother, her grandmother and even some of the nuns–with affection as well as exasperation. Josie has less experience dealing with guys until senior year, when three members of the opposite sex complicate her world. Her father, who has not previously known of her existence, arrives on the scene unexpectedly, and she can’t help feeling drawn to him. She also becomes involved with two boys her own age: the upper-class but desperately unhappy John Barton and the wilder, iconoclastic Jacob Coote. (both summaries from amazon.com)
My Thoughts: I think this is the third time I’ve read this book–I get something different from it each time because the first time I read it I was quite young–probably elementary school, and the second time I was in middle school, and now I am graduating from high school. I remember being extremely confused when I was younger because of the cultural/geographic differences between Australia and the U.S. Several times in the narration it talks about how July is the coldest month, and school ends in September or something, or it’s hot during Christmas… I was so confused, hahaha.
Some of the plot points and characterizations might sound cliche and stupid from the plot summaries, but Marchetta has a way of making everything very multi-faceted–the characters aren’t just two dimensional cardboard cutouts.
I liked the way the author developed Josephine’s family and relationships, and the way she changed as a person throughout the novel. There were funny aspects (Josie has what most people would call a big mouth), but there were serious and somber aspects too. It ended well. A good “coming-of-age” novel.