I was really interested in reading this, since my Catholic all girls' high school went through the opposite scenario described in the book: allowing seniors from the neighboring boy’s school to attend some of our classes. The change certainly made things more intriguing, though the next year—my senior year—only four guys signed up. Apparently, the previous year’s seniors hated all the extra work that was required, and warned the juniors to stay away. ;)
Marchetta does a good job in her characterization of Francesca. She’s a true self-centered needy teenager. If you carefully read between the lines, it applies for everyone in Francesca’s little circle. For example, there’s no real concern or thought about the original girlfriend (i.e. Will’s). Francesca’s focus is solely on her desire for him. And even Francesca’s concern for her mother’s depression rounds back onto concern for herself-i.e. how her mother’s depression affects her—Francesca’s—lifestyle. This reading’s even reflected in the title—“saving Francesca”— not necessarily saving her family or her friends. It’s a good use of irony.
That said, while I did like this book, I couldn’t really say it’s one of my favorites. After four years of all of that girly-cliquey-huggy-cry time, reading about it and visually experiencing it all over again in my mind’s eye got old really quick. I’ve already had my fill. And again, like in On the Jellicoe Road, no one talks; there’s never any attempt at meaningful communication between adults and the younger generation. Why?! It could save so much heartache. This scenario doesn’t always exist, at least from my own experience—unless I’m in the minority.
However, this book’s breath of fresh air came from those two misfit boys: Thomas Mackee and Jimmy Hailler. I truly loved their presence in the book. And now having started The Piper's Son, which is written from Tom’s perspective, I’m so glad I didn’t decide to part ways with the sequel.
Side note: regarding the book’s reference to priests and nuns being the “husbands and brides of Christ.” From my Catholic school experiences and the nuns who taught me, this is an outdated reference. It’s now mostly considered a vocation, the ring if still worn—a symbol of their dedication to their vocation, letting go of their ties to the material world…their conversion of lifestyle.