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.
Grade: A+ - Wow!
"I come under the "scholarship" category, and when I say that, I would rather be the daughter of a laborer." (Page 7)
"Rituals. They come and they go, but the ritual of having to see my grandmother every afternoon drives me absolutely insane." (Page 39)
I'll admit that when I started reading this story, I thought it would be one of those formulaic, nothing-special tales about an obnoxious girl who goes to school, is in the middle of a family feud with her foul-tempered relatives, and through a series of unlikely events, falls "in love" with some bland boy whose only attribute is his good-looks. The beginning chapter, where you get to see a firsthand example of Josephine's cheekiness, didn't help in deterring my theory. But then... well, as they say, then it's all history. I got engrossed in the story. Josephine Alibrandi is sassy and sometimes too spoiled for her own good, but she's a fun character to read about. You find yourself laughing at her thoughts (not because they are petty but because they are truly funny) and you find that you can relate to her. This is especially true in the parts where you see her friends and the two boys who're special to her.
The part I liked best of this story, though, was the family aspect of it. Josephine's family is from Sicily and their culture shines through in many ways. I was amazed by the "family secrets" subplot, which was very cleverly crafted and contributed to the depth of this book in many ways. The relationships in the family are tested and we get to see what lies underneath the surface, what makes the family members the way they are, and what put everyone in the less-than-perfect predicament they're in when the novel begins.
In short: Melina Marchetta has written an unforgettable story with touching characters, a tight plot, and great wit. This is an all-time must-read and if you haven't read it yet, you're missing out big time.