Looking for Alibrandi
by Melina Marchetta
It’s my birthday today. I’m not seventeen anymore. The seventeen that Janis Ian sang about where one learns the truth. But what she failed to mention is that you keep on learning truths after seventeen, and I want to keep on learning truths till the day I die.
Josephine Alibrandi is attending an upper-class Catholic high school on scholarship. Strong, opinionated women surround her – the nuns at the school, her dramatic grandmother Katia, her single mother Christina, and her small group of friends. Josephine is just as opinionated and strong-willed as those who surround her.
Josephine’s world is thrown into chaos when she meets her long-absent father, Michael Andretti. She must decide whether to build a relationship with him. Adding to her growing confusion with the opposite sex is her intelligent friend, John who is destined to become prime minister (at least according to his father) and passionate bad-boy Jacob Coote.
Josephine must decide who and what are important to her as she navigates learning more about her Italian family, ethnic discrimination, and growing up.
Looking for Alibrandi is a rich, nuanced novel about what it means to grow up. It deals with so many issues – family connections and secrets, cultural pressures, depression, relationships – but just as in Saving Francesca, this book feels like a “life” book. It is as if you are getting an inside look into someone’s head and experiences.
That someone happens to be Josephine Alibrandi who has instantly become one of my favorite characters in Young Adult literature. Josephine is extremely likable. I loved the scene at the beginning where she was justifying reading a teen magazine in religion class to Sister. She is fiery and opinionated. She is not without faults, though. Josie often times does not know when to keep her opinions to herself and her temper tends to get her into trouble. Throughout the novel, though, Josephine shows a lot of growth and learns more about who she is.
The well-drawn relationships made this novel. I loved the relationship between Josie and her parents. She discovers that she and her father are not as different as she may have thought. In fact, they are actually quite similar. I loved the interactions between these two. Josephine and her mother also had such a volatile but caring relationship that was realistically portrayed.
The secondary characters are dimensional and realistic – I loved Poison Ivy, John and Jacob. I especially loved Jacob – who doesn’t love a bad boy with a heart. Jacob and Josephine challenged each other and made each other a better person. They also had amazing chemistry.
However, this novel is not at all a typical bad boy and good girl fall in love story. It is SO much more than that. It is about real people having real relationships – learning, loving, making mistakes and growing. There was another added layer in learning about what it means to be an Italian-Australian and the pressures and assumptions that come along with that.
There is only one thing wrong with Melina Marchetta’s books – I am always sad when I am finished. She creates stories that you want to stay in and characters that you don’t want to leave. I highly recommend that you read the award-winning Looking for Alibrandi.
**As an added note, this book was made into a movie in Australia (the screenplay was also written by Marchetta) I am going to track this down next! I am pretty sure that it will be amazing. Additionally, I read that this is the most stolen library book in Australia. Crazy!
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age Recommendation: 15 and older