One Shot World Tour: "Best Read with Vegemite!" edition*
So, who is Melina Marchetta? Just a fabulous author who happened to write Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, and On the Jellicoe Road. Marchetta lives in Sydney, Australia, where she teaches at St. Mary's Cathedral boys school. She spent six years writing Alibrandi, which was a huge hit in Australia. So huge that Marchetta worried she'd never be able to write another book, although she somehow managed. You can read an engaging 2003 interview with her by The Sydney Morning Herald, and a more recent one inside a dog. During the inside a dog interview, Marchetta says that the best thing about being a writer is "getting paid for actually telling big lies." Marchetta is an Austen fan (Persuasion being one of her favorite books ever, and Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice being the book character she'd least like to meet).
Here's the thing with a book by Melina Marchetta: you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll admire her deft storytelling, and you'll "see" the book play out inside your head as if it were a movie.
Her first book was Looking for Alibrandi, which tells the story of Josephine (Josie), a senior at a Catholic girls' high school. At seventeen, Josie's finally coming to terms with members of the opposite sex, one of which is her father -- whom she's never met, and who didn't know he was a father until now. Josie also gets entangled with two boys her own age: would-be mechanic Jacob Coote and depressed rich-kid John Barton. Josie learns to come to terms with her Italian heritage (she so desperately wants to be Aussie) and her illegitimacy. Through her friendship with John, she also learns that the "haves" don't always have everything -- and that there are worse things than being illegitimate or part of an immigrant group.
Saving Francesca is told from the p.o.v. of an unhappy, fairly unsympathetic main character, who nevertheless manages to be funny and engaging and wonderful company. Francesca spends most of the book in her own funk while dealing with a profoundly depressed mother. Despite numerous hardships and crises, however, all of which are conveyed clearly and well, Francesca (and Marchetta) never, ever brings the reader down. Talk about your skillful writing. But I digress. Francesca navigates life as a new student at a private Catholic school that's only recently become co-ed (it used to be all boys). She no longer fits with her old girl friends, and has trouble finding where she belongs at the new school -- although somehow, she manages to make friends, real friends; she even winds up with a boyfriend. For writers out there -- this one is really worth studying to see how to write a believable character with problems (that doesn't completely suck the reader into a vortex of depression).
Melina Marchetta has a third novel available in Australia: On the Jellicoe Road, which I've not yet read. Thus far, it seems not to have swum its way to the U.S. It tells the story of a girl named Taylor, who was left on the Jellicoe Road by her mother when she was only eleven. I hear that it comes together rather slowly, and that some kids might not have patience for it, but those that take the time to watch it come together will love it.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interviews Margo Lanagan
Big A, little A writes about Anna Feinberg and her Tashi series of early chapter books
Not Your Mother's Bookclub interviews Simmone Howell
Chicken Spaghetti reviews Kathy Hoopmann's award winning All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
Shaken and Stirred talks about "Shriek: The Movie" (in an unscheduled bit), and comes back later with discussion on How Sassy Changed My Life, The Red Shoes by Ursula Dubosarsky and a wee bit more with Margo Lanagan
Jen Robinson discusses John Marsden's Tomorrow series beginning with Tomorrow, When the World Began and going through book six, The Other Side of Dawn
Finding Wonderland has a look at Undine by Penni Russon and her later book, Breathe, with information about Russon's life and blog. In a separate post, the lovely ladies at Finding Wonderland look Jaclyn Moriarty's titles, Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, and the upcoming Spell Book of Listen Taylor.
Little Willow discusses Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy talks about Catherine Jinks and The Pagan Chronicles, books about a boy named Pagan during the time of the Crusades, beginning with Pagan's Crusade and going through Pagan's Scribe (with a note that another book, Pagan's Daughter is now available)
Interactive Reader posts about Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big in This? and, in a separate post she talks about The Icebound Land by John Flanagan
The Ya Ya Yas talk with Queenie Chan, author of The Dreaming series of manga out from TOKYOPOP
In a three part post, Fuse #8 talks about John Marsden and also names Andy Griffiths, author of The Day My Butt Went Psycho and its progeny a Hot Man of Literature
Chasing Ray talks about Nick Earls, whom she compares to John Green (High praise indeed!)
Mother Reader writes about Am I Right or Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg
Jenny Davidson interviews Peter Temple, author of the Jack Irish books and of the recent novel, The Broken Shore, who is classified as a writer for grownups, but whose books are YA-appropriate
I should note that I preferred a different subtitle, which I insist on sharing down here in the footnotes: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!