Looking for Alibrandi – For Any Girl Looking To Fit In
Melina Marchetta’s novel tells a snippet of the story of Australian Anglo-Italian Josephine Alibrandi. Josie is a confined, defensive 17-year-old year who’s struggling to physically contain her emotions.
She’s a sophomore student whose English scholarship to an exclusive girls’ school sees her stand out from the crowd – for what she perceives to be all the wrongs reasons.
Born to a teenage mother and raised with the well meaning assistance of an intrusive Italian family, Josie believes her heritage to be the burden that defines her young life. Her Catholic upbringing taught her about martyrdom, and she applies the term with passion every day, delighting in any opportunity to remind others how hard she has it; “We live in the same country but we’re different. What’s taboo for Italians isn’t taboo for Australians.”
In her senior year, Josie experiences a rush of hormones and the stress of an increasing study load. During this most important year, she also meets her father for the first time. He has previously been the dramatic family secret and is not appreciated by family matriarch, Nonna. But Attorney Michael proves to be a very practical resource for Josie when she finds herself in self imposed hot water.
Drama peaks for Josie at the sudden loss of a special friend to suicide. John Barton was perfect boyfriend material whose life was altogether overwhelming; his loss is a tragedy to Josie. In her struggle to come to terms with his death, her relationship with Michael deepens as he comforts her and helps her to understand that “living is the challenge, Josie. Not dying. Dying is so easy. Sometimes it only takes ten seconds to die. But living? That can take you eighty years…”
Finally, Josie falls unexpectedly, and utterly in love with Jacob Coote, the totally wrong-for-her, motorcycle riding, public School Captain babe who claims in true Aussie style “you get into punch-ups with other girls, you wipe your nose with your sleeve… you’re my kind of chick.”
Marchetta’s fluid story reads like the minds of most 17-year-old girls, so it’s no surprise to learn that the novel was based on real life. Her penchant for creating scenes where the nuances of each character are beautifully, and melodically revealed deny the reader nothing, yet leaves the window open just enough for imagination to take hold when it’s needed.
Ultimately though, what results in Marchetta’s story telling is the coming of age, the maturing, the development, the story of Josephine Alibrandi. She is looking for her father, looking for love, looking for her place in life. She finds them all and, in the process, she finds herself.
Guest post by: Susan Long About the Author: Susan Long is a freelance copywriter with a degree in children’s and adolescent literature.