I love how Aussie book blogger Nomes of Inkcrush is so passionate about novels from down under. She’s my go-to girl when it comes to Aussie YA recommendations and I’ve read so many wonderful books because of Nomes. I wanted her to take part in Marchetta Madness to give us an idea of what’s it like to be way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to being a Marchetta fan. Please welcome Nomes, as she talks about the novel that started it all, Looking for Alibrandi.
There is so much I could write about regarding Melina Marchetta, her novels, the characters and I. Yet what I most want share with you about is the very first Marchetta book that stole my (young) heart.
Looking for Alibrandi
I read Looking for Alibrandi when I was 13 years old. I snatched it off the display shelf at my local library, never having heard of Melina Marchetta, always on the look out for something new to read. I can still conjure up my first impressions of the book:
Laughing out loud in the first chapter.
Wishing I was as gutsy as Josie. Fiery and bold and impetuous.
Imagining my future self on the back of some (cute) boys motorbike (those teen years lingering ahead of me, full of promise)
Kissing, and some sexytimes. I was riveted. Thank you, Ms Marchetta.
John Barton. My God. Tears.
The debate team. Some bonding over that, as I was a debater.
She broke that girls nose! Oh, and her dad to the rescue (I liked him so, from that very point).
The letter exchange. My friends and I were always doing that kind of stuff.
The Catholic girls school seemed so much cooler than my regular coed state high school.
Not only did I have crush on two boys, but I also crushed on her father.
Her grandmother, Katia ~ my gosh, tragic and sinful and beautiful mysterious past…
Check out this kissing quote: ‘Fifteen minutes later I was an expert. That’s all you need. I think I was even getting the upper hand which is very simple with a guy. Anything seems to turn them on.’ p154. This quote brought some comfort (LOL) and a few grins.
Fast forward a year and half from my first read
My teacher, handing out our text to study in class: Looking For Alibrandi.
I blurt out: Oh! I’ve already read this. (Had read it twice, in fact. Living in a country town you tend to re-borrow whatever the library stocks).
Guy at back (name redacted for privacy, but I remember you…;)): Don’t you have a life?
My teacher: (did not defend me)
I would like to say that reading it along with my class I came to appreciate all the hidden layers, depth, the themes of cultural heritage, social classes/barriers, relationships, family and self-identity. But I discovered pulling a part one of your favourite books can be a tedious task, mostly involving me fluffing my way through essays, throwing big words around and often debating points just for the sake of argument (to extend the period and get out of written work). I know I did not share how much I loved the book, preferring to keep it personal, than offer up my deepest feelings up for debate and discussion.
It wasn’t even until the last few years, on a reread that I was able to fully appreciate what a masterpiece Alibrandi is. I won’t get all classroom essay on you now, but I want to say two things:
1. First chapter love. One of my all-time fave first chapters. Josie’s voice is funny, irreverent, cool and likeable. You will grin and have that gosh-I-am-going-to-love-this-book feeling from the first few pages.
2. Josephine Alibrandi will go down in the history of Aussie YA books as one of the most likeable, feisty, authentic and memorable female protagonists. For me, she is right up there next to Ellie Linton (Tomorrow, When the War Began) as one of my most nostalgic and beloved YA personalities.
Looking for Alibrandi: The Movie
First of all: there is a movie. Have you seen it yet?
The Looking for Alibrandi movie was one of those things I heard murmurs about without ever knowing if it was really happening (living in those pre-internet days where nothing is easily confirmed and rumours multiplied then faded altogether). I was at university at the time when my flatmate and I first saw a trailer for the film. We clung to each other and squealed, then grew nervous. What if they don’t get it right? Then we heard Melina Marchetta had something to do with the script (that something being she wrote it) plus Pia Miranda was gorgeous and Anthony LaPaglia a fave. We let our anticipation swell.
I watched Alibrandi on it’s opening weekend at the cinema, accompanied by chicken twisties, coke and my flatmate (left my boyfriend – now my husband – at home. We discriminated against him coming as he hadn’t read the book. Oh, we were cruel. Superior, but also feeling precious about watching it). It was gorgeous on the big screen. Seeing it all come to life in such an Australian way ~ the scenes at the Opera house, Sydney Uni (my rival uni at the time), Bondi Beach and George Street.
My flatmate loved it. I loved it. Boyfriend even got into the spirit of it when we hired it out on video later on… (and as my now husband, has sat through it more than once ;))
It was exhilarating and fun and touching and Australian and had a killer soundtrack.
I love that a favourite book can be transformed into another medium. Same story, but different. It brought to life the characters, differently to how it played out in my head, but it still evoked all those same feelings in me that I first had when I read the book as a teen.
Side note before moving on: I so completely recommend this Australian film to anyone who loves Melina Marchetta, Aussie films or Aussie YA. CHECK OUT THIS ROCKING TRAILER. (Did I mention MM wrote the script?)
Most of all
I am proud of Alibrandi and the role it played in my life. While Melina Marchetta has recently risen in fame internationally, she truly made her mark in Australia in the 90’s. When Young Adult fiction was the smallest section in the library, dominated by Sweet Valley High (okay, so I read them, who didn’t?), imported YA and a sprinkling of (uninspiring) classics, Looking For Alibrandi brought an authentic Australian voice that resonated deep within me. For a young Aussie teen, there is nothing like that feeling of sinking into an Australian story, full of Aussies, local references and a kick-arse nose-breaking heroine.
I think a lot of people struggle to choose their favourite Melina Marchetta (Perhaps even Melina herself struggles?). Alibrandi has it’s own special place in my heart. It is my most nostalgia-inducing Marchetta book. It is perhaps Marchetta’s most well known title in Australia (?) yet possibly her least talked about title internationally (?). I would LOVE to hear if you guys have read it, what did you think? Do you have plans to read it?
Thanks so much for having me here, Chachic, and I hope me sharing my Alibrandi memories has inspired some of your readers to check out Melina Marchetta’s (outstanding) debut.
Did you know? Looking for Alibrandi is the most stolen book from Australian libraries. I personally am on my third (unstolen ;)) copy. (My first one fell apart. My second never returned to me )
Thanks, Nomes! I’ve always wondered what it’s like to read Looking for Alibrandi for class, you just gave all of us a clearer picture. I really want to watch that movie. Also, you’ve made me jealous of your Aussie editions! I want them all.