Marchetta Madness: Random Facts

While doing research for Marchetta Madness (also known as Googling), I came across some pieces of information that I thought fellow Marchetta fans would like to know. I’ve compiled all of them in this post.

The Italian Che and Chi is a K sound so Melina Marchetta’s surname is pronounced Marketta. (This is something that I asked the author herself to clarify – I’ve been pronouncing her name wrong all along!)

Did you know that Australian edition The Piper’s Son beautiful cover design has something in common with Australian singer-songwriter Pete Murray’s album Feeler?

Australian cover for The Piper's Son

I think it’s fitting for Tom to share a cover design with another musician. 😛

I want to share this one because my current favorite song is Samson, which I discovered while organizing Marchetta Madness. From Penguin Australia’s Q And A With Melina Marchetta:

The soundtrack to accompany The Piper’s Son would include…
Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly, Samson by Regina Spektor, Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars, Smokers Outside the Hospital Door by Editors, Crazy Train by The Waifs, Union City Blues by Blondie, Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice and This Year’s Love by David Gray.

The cover for the Australian edition of Froi of the Exiles is based on a self-portrait taken by photographer Zack Ahern. You can learn more about the process through an interview that Jo of Wear the Old Coat posted a few months ago.


Couldn’t resist sharing this because it’s about Jonah Griggs. From an interview over at watchYAreading:

Can you tell us something about Jonah Griggs no one else (or at least, not too many people) knows?
Okay, firstly it will be a chore and a half to cast him. The actor will have to be between 18-21 and for me, he is a very very young Russell Crowe. Secondly, in The Piper’s Son, Ben the violinist (from OTJR) lives in Waterloo so I think he’s living with Jonah who tells Taylor in OTJR that he lives in Waterloo. Thirdly, Jonah’s had a few different names in the history of this novel. The first being Jasper (my dog) and then Sebastian Griggs. Fourthly, he appears in The Gorgon in the Gully which is about his little brother, Danny. Finally, he is similar to a hawke and a wolf and Will Trombal – He mates for life.


Did you know that The Gorgon in the Gully is a children’s book about Jonah Griggs’ little brother Danny? I wasn’t able to write a review for this week but trust me, it’s a charming little novel with snippets that include a certain swoon-worthy Cadet, even though he’s out in the bush.

Here’s the summary from Melina Marchetta’s website:

Beyond the basketball courts and classrooms of St. Raph’s is a gully where things disappear forever. Danny Griggs has heard stories about a Gorgon that lies down there. So why does Danny volunteer to face the Gorgon when he’s been petrified of everything all his life?


Have you all seen this mini-documentary made by Penguin about Melina Marchetta?


Interviews with Melina Marchetta all over the blogosphere:
March 16, 2012 – watchYAreading
December 13, 2011 – Lorraine Marwood
December 7, 2011 – because writing is my vice
Noevmber 25, 2011 – Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing
March 15, 2011 – The Happy Nappy Bookseller
March 8, 2011 – I Read Banned Books
March 7, 2011 – YA bibliophile
March 5, 2011 – Zoe’s Book Reviews
March 3, 2011 – books4yourkids, Not Enough Bookshelves
January 11, 2011 – post-teen trauma
June 23, 2010 – The Story Siren
March 9, 2010 – YA reads
March 2, 2010 – Persnickety Snark
October 11, 2009 – YA Highway
May 17, 2009 – Literary Life
May 30, 2008 – Chicklish


List of Marchetta Madness posts:
Discussion post about what was your first Marchetta
Elizabeth Fama, “Melina Marchetta, From the Perspective of a New Fan”
Jo of Wear the Old Coat, “An Ode to Marchetta’s Men”
Trish Doller shares how Jonah Griggs inspired her own characters
Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile, “How Saving Francesca Often Saves My Day”
Flannery of The Readventurer tells us why she loves The Piper’s Son
Megan Whalen Turner shares her favorite aspect of Melina Marchetta’s novels
Nomes of Inkcrush discusses both the book and movie for Looking for Alibrandi
Lisa and Maja of The Nocturnal library talk about Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles
Joy of 132 Minutes, “Evanjalin of the Monts”
Alexa of 132 Minutes, “Before I Read a Melina Marchetta Novel”
Kirsty Eagar made a video of her chatting with Melina Marchetta
Melina Marchetta, “The sequel, the companion novel, the audience and me.”

Marchetta Madness posts in other blogs:
Alex of A Girl, Books and Other Things, Favorite Secondary Characters
Alex of A Girl, Books and Other Things, “At the Movies: Looking for Alibrandi”
Aaron of Guy Gone Geek, “The Duality of a Narrative”
Alex of A Girl, Books and Other Things, “A Romantic Spotlight”
Lissa of The Real Book Critique, “Magic Writing by Melina Marchetta”


And that wraps up the amazing week that Marchetta Madness has been. Thank you to everyone who participated! Maraming salamat. 🙂 Do you have other bits of Marchetta goodness that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Melina Marchetta

I’m elated that I have the Queen of Aussie YA herself on the blog today. Please give it up for the amazing author who gave us such beautiful books to enjoy – MELINA MARCHETTA!

The sequel, the companion novel, the audience and me.

I’ve said more than once that there have been big surprises for me in my writing life and one of them is Tom Finch Mackee. When he came back to me in 2007 I was midway through writing Finnikin. I had never written two novels at the same time and I chose to put Tom on hold. But I thought of him all the time and we kind of talked in that strange dialogue writers have with their characters. In a way I had to get to know him again. I had first introduced him in Saving Francesca as a 17 year old boy who was never going to be anything more than a bully in the lives of the new girls in his school. But I was teaching boys at the time and the students I first believed to be bullies ended up being pretty decent. Tom got caught up in that decency.

Sequels and companion novels are difficult because you constantly question what you owe your audience. I have an incredibly loyal readership regardless of whether they’ve liked every one of the novels or not, and I’m very much aware of them out there. It’s a strange intimacy that develops between a writer and a reader. While I’m writing, however, I won’t allow those readers in my head. So when I question what I owe them, the answer is usually, I owe them nothing. Which seems harsh, but the moment my writing is shaped by someone other than myself, I begin to let down a whole lot of other readers and there’s less truth in the story I want to tell.

A few times I’ve broken that rule, though. When I wrote The Piper’s Son, I introduced a whole lot of new characters and re-introduced some old characters that needed to be part of Tom’s journey. But I cheated with Will Trombal because really, Will didn’t need to be part of Tom’s journey. Tom can’t stand Will. But many of my young readers especially, were very keen to know what happened between Francesca and Will. Every time I did a school visit or a festival, I’d be asked about them. Deep down, I was curious about the pair myself and although I pretended that Will was out of the picture temporarily in The Piper’s Son because I sent him overseas to work, I couldn’t resist flying him back for a long weekend. Anyone who’s read the novel would also notice how I snuck him in Chapter One the night before he flies out. I’m very weak in that way.

There are problems when you cheat. Most writers have a nazi editing voice that lives in their head. The Voice has the capacity to nag at the beginning of the process and then hide for ages and ages. During later drafts of The Piper’s Son mine revealed itself again.

The Voice: Like, really, what does Will have to do with Tom’s journey?
ME: Mumble mumble mumble Francesca mumble mumble mumble.
The Voice: Francesca? But this isn’t her story, fool? It’s Tom’s and Georgie’s.
ME: Mumble mumble mumble but I love Will mumble mumble.
The Voice: Then put him to work!

The Voice is always right. It’s actually quite powerful because it has conversations with others as well. Usually soon after, my editor will say, ‘By the way, let’s talk about Will? Why does he really need to be part of Tom’s story?”

So regardless of whether I included Will for my Francesca readers, I had to put him to work. He had to spend time with Tom, instructed by both Frankie the character, and me the writer. Will’s words had to somehow shape Tom’s journey and teach him a thing or two about human nature and relationships. The character of Will was also utilized to bring much needed humour in what could be a dark novel. Not that Will has a sense of humour at all, but his scenes had an element of humour in them. One of my favourites, later included, was between Tom and Will at the football game.

The other character that surprised me into getting his own novel was Froi. I know for sure that I had no intention of writing his story when I started Finnikin because I would never have called a protagonist “Froi”. It’s a bit of a blah name and if I was serious about him, I would have named him Tariq or Akbar or Olivier.

I also know that if I had his own story in mind, I would have changed what Froi tried to do to Evanjalin. It’s not a good place to begin a sequel because I knew for sure that the novel would be criticized by some readers before they read the first page, and that I would lose a whole lot of other readers who were disgusted by Froi’s actions in Finnikin. How could one not be? But what I wanted to show was how that single heinous act became part of his bond to women and to himself. Female characterisation and the way men and women interact with each other is paramount in my story telling, whether in my contemporary or fantasy novels, and I’d love to think that after reading the whole 600 pages, an independent reader would make up their own mind about Froi and his treatment of women. I was very conscious of not insulting the Finnikin reader. For that reason, I set myself three rules: don’t forget what Froi tried to do; don’t let Froi forget what he tried to do; don’t let the reader forget what Froi tried to do.

But there was also a character in Froi of the Exiles that I included to make my Finnikin readers happy. Not Finnikin and his Queen, however. Both characters are important to this trilogy, especially in Quintana of Charyn. My big cheat was Beatriss of the Flatlands. I wanted closure because I left her relationship with Trevanion in some sort of limbo. I had absolutely no regret not tying up the pieces in Finnikin because it was too soon. But I wanted their relationship played out in the real time of a novel, rather than the three years in between. My decision was questioned once or twice in early edits by both the Voice and my editors. I could understand why. Beatriss didn’t belong in Froi’s journey. So I made her count in other ways, especially when it came to understanding what life had been like for the Lumaterans throughout the curse. She was also used to compliment the character of Phaedra of Alonso. Beatriss and Phaedra were similar in my eyes. They both had an abundance of strength, concealed by their own fear as well as society’s perception of them.

There have been other little cheats along the way. The cameo by Ben the Violinist in The Piper’s Son. He and his band were my gift to Jellicoe readers. Some didn’t pick up the references, others have told me they burst out crying when they realized who Ben was. And of course there’s Danny Griggs’ older brother in The Gorgon in the Gully. Even Taylor makes a cameo appearance as part of a photograph in a sock drawer. Sometimes cheating is a lovely thing to do. I’m thinking of making it a habit. 


Yes please, would love to see more cheating! 😛 Melina, we can never thank you enough for writing wonderful novels that speak to all of us in many different ways. Thank you for graciously doing a guest post for this week (also for commenting on the posts), I’m sure I’m not the only fan who appreciates this. 🙂 I can’t believe it’s the last day of Marchetta Madness!

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post from Kirsty Eagar

Kirsty Eagar is the author of Raw Blue, Saltwater Vampires and the upcoming Night Beach. I’ve only read Raw Blue but it has cemented my belief that there’s probably something in the water in Australia that makes authors write such excellent novels. Kirsty is not just a brilliant author, she’s also super nice. She made a video for Marchetta Madness! How cool is that? No one has ever recorded a video for my blog before. Go ahead and watch it and be amazed by the Aussie awesomeness.


Kirsty Eagar

Hello! When Chachic invited me to take part in Marchetta Madness I thought I’d do a post on the Lumatere chronicles (which were my introduction to Melina’s work). But then I remembered I was due to meet Melina for a coffee in Surry Hills (an inner-city suburb of Sydney), and I figured you guys would much prefer the chance to hang out with her. We tried to keep things literate and writerly, but as you’ll see it quickly degenerated into a discussion about toenail polish. Enjoy!


I have curly hair and I have several red tops (although I don’t have a George Orwell shirt)! Can I please join you? 🙂 Thank you so much for this video, Kirsty. I can’t seem to stop watching it. I’ve noticed the friendly dog outside the cafe, the rack of postcards near the door, the graffiti around the streets and now have an urge to paint my toenails a pretty color.

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post from Alexa of 132 Minutes

Remember Joy of 132 Minutes from yesterday’s post? Alexa is her partner in crime in maintaining their Melina Marchetta-themed blog. I thought it would be a good idea to put up their posts close together. Here’s Alexa, sharing how she first discovered Jellicoe Road.

Before I Read a Melina Marchetta Novel

I remember the exact day, hour, minute, second I first held a Melina Marchetta novel. The date was January 19, 2010, a Tuesday, and the time was 11:40:45 AM.

Okay, I actually don’t remember the date and time. Ha! I only know all those numbers because I’m still holding on to the library receipt. And even then I was probably browsing around the library for at least thirty minutes before I went to check-out. So I don’t remember the exact second, but I do remember picking up Jellicoe Road from the library shelf, flipping it open to read the summary (again), and hoping that I like it. Because while many people were praising it on their book blogs and Goodreads, I wasn’t sure if Jellicoe Road would be for me. I had no way of knowing that three days later this little book was going to blow my mind to the point where it felt like my life had changed.

A couple weeks prior to that moment, I stumbled upon Jellicoe Road’s Goodreads page for the first time ever. I had never heard of it or Melina Marchetta before in my life. Once I saw the rating, I became curious and wanted to know why it had such an awesome rating. Unfortunately, there were some things holding me back from giving it a chance.

First off, it was a contemporary. While I had already read a few here and there, it wasn’t a genre I went out of my way to read. Jellicoe even sounded different from other contemporaries out there. Reviews mentioned how confusing the beginning was and HarperTeen’s summary made me go ‘HUH?’ It also gave me the impression that it was going to be very serious and depressing. I enjoy a good laugh, and this book didn’t sound like it would have any humor at all! So, I figured it wouldn’t be interesting or exciting, which to me meant it had to be boring.

Not only that, I kept asking myself, “Does it have romance?” I have to admit that I prefer to read books with romance. It doesn’t have to be the focus; it just needs to be satisfying. Assuming that Jellicoe Road didn’t have romance stopped me from wanting to read it. Jellioce’s summary, however, did sort of make it seem like there would be something (“…Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all” and “…the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does”), but would it be enough for me? I really didn’t think so.

For some strange reason, though, I still found myself drawn to it. And after a book blogger I followed read and loved it, I couldn’t control my curiosity any longer and had to know what was up with the novel! Now, that didn’t mean I let my assumptions and expectations go. Right before I started reading it, I totally remember thinking, ‘It’s confusing? Pssh. It can’t be that hard to figure out. I got this!’ The prologue and first chapter set me straight real quick. (I even had to draw a chart to keep track of certain characters, which was actually pretty fun.) And I started to realize how completely wrong I was about Jellicoe Road.

As I read, Jellicoe Road continued to prove me wrong again and again. It had a perfect balance of everything. The characters were incredible. There was some intense romance and friendships and lots of hilarious moments, and all the sadness I was worried about actually captivated me. I was in complete awe. I wondered how I could ever think that I wouldn’t enjoy it! And usually when I read a book there’s always something that I wish the author had done differently; however, that wasn’t the case with Jellicoe. It was flawless to me. It made me want to read more contemporary, and also made me want to give more books a chance and not come up with lame reasons not to read them.

Jellicoe Road was hands down the best reading experience I’ve ever had. I’m forever grateful to Melina Marchetta for writing a book that impacted me and changed my reading expectations. And I have a feeling her novels will always be those books I’ll go back to whenever I need to read something inspiring and truly amazing.


Thank you, Alexa! Like I keep saying the past few days, both Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son are my favorite Marchettas so it makes me happy that you chose to talk about one of them. Drop by 132 Minutes and check out the awesome Marchetta giveaway that they’re having.

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post from Joy of 132 Minutes

Joy is one of the ladies behind 132 Minutes, a blog dedicated to Melina Marchetta fans. If you’re a true Marchetta fan, you’d get the name of the blog. 😛 Go check it out and follow them on Twitter. They’re currently having an awesome giveaway of six Melina Marchetta novels. Today is all about Marchetta’s fantasy novels as Joy talks about Evanjalin from Finnikin of the Rock. Heads up, this post contains spoilers so avert your eyes if you haven’t read the book yet (go grab a copy and read that instead).

Evanjalin of the Monts

“Do not underestimate this girl,” the priest-king said quietly.

Finnikin gave a humorless laugh. “I am with the King’s First Man, the captain of the King’s Guard, and the priest-king of Lumatere. The most powerful men in our kingdom, apart from the King himself. All brought together by her. At what point have I led you to believe that I have underestimated her?”

Chapter 10, Finnikin of the Rock, exiles and fever camp in Sorel.

Evanjalin was a woman with a purpose. Driven by an incredible desire to save her people, the ways and means with which she achieved what she’d set out to do was rife with well-meaning deceit and hardhearted determination. She was a conniving, lying, thieving and in some instances, vindictive heroine who used her smarts and courage to free her people. She wasn’t the type who wilted under the patronizing opinions of the men that surrounded her and the type who’d never hesitate to maim or even kill to exact justice. She’s a superhero(ine) in every sense of the word; a woman possessed and obsessed with seeing Lumaterans back where they belong. And for every lie, every scheme, every single act of calculated bravery, this woman imparted a piece of her soul and heart that truly embodied a strong female lead who would remain my standard of measure for every book that graces my bookshelves.

Without giving too much of the story away, here are some of Evanjalin’s gambits of trickeries that eventually led to her people’s freedom and secured Lumaterans of their rightful royals. These are only the ones that in my opinion were catalysts to the story and to the series.

1. Evanjalin convinced the Sorel authorities to arrest Finnikin, imprisoning him in the mines where he would be in the mercy of a savage prisoner, named Trevanion.
2. When Finnikin escaped, she then tricked him into saving the thief of Sarnak from the hands of the Sorel traders who bought and sold humans as slaves. The same thief who stole from her, spat at their faces every chance he got, and tried to rape her.
3. She convinced everyone that she only walk the sleep when she bled. They didn’t know that more often than not, she “made” herself bleed.

I have read Finnikin of the Rock at least half a dozen times; and each time, I’m left feeling too much and breathless by the beautiful, visceral writing. The heart-wrenching stories of the people of Lumatere never fail to bring on bouts of choked sobs and seemingly ceaseless tears. But trust me when I say the bliss at the end of the story was well worth it.

I’m glad I got to be a part of Marchetta Madness here at Chachic’s blog. For lack of a better word, I’ve been pimping Ms. Marchetta’s books any chance I get. Her books are something that needed to be shared – for the incredible writing, for the soul-searching stories and the wonderful characters that everyone should know.


Thank you, Joy! Me too, I’ve been pimping MM’s books, trying to encourage everyone to read them. I’d be thrilled of Marchetta Madness manages to convince more readers to pick up MM’s novels.

Check out these Marchetta Madness posts in other blogs:
Aaron wrote about The Duality of a Narrative (with Jellicoe Road as a jump off point) over at Guy Gone Geek
Alex wrote a review for Looking for Alibrandi, the movie over at A Girl, a Book and Other Things

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Lisa and Maja of The Nocturnal Library

Lisa and Maja are the blogging duo behind The Nocturnal Library. Lisa is based in Italy while Maja is in Croatia (and I’m in the Philippines) – further proof that Melina Marchetta’s books are being read and loved all over the world. They’re here to talk about the books in the Lumatere Chronicles: Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta’s fantasy novels. Yay, Lisa and Maja!


Lisa: When I think Melina Marchetta I think contemporary fiction. The first book I read was Jellicoe Road and I loved it. I then read Saving Francesca and I loved it. I read Looking for Alibrandi and I loved it. I read The Piper’s Son and I plead temporary insanity for not being crazy about it ( a re-read is in order soon)
I was more than a little worried when I realized Finnikn was fantasy. How many authors can nonchalantly be good in both genres? Help me out here ‘cause my answer is none.
I shouldn’t have worried: Marchetta actually writes fantasy in a way not many others can do. Her added value is that, beside a great fantasy plot, her characterization is just masterful, of course.

Maja: First of all, we’re both incredibly honored that the lovely Chachic thought of us when she started planning the Marchetta Madness. Contemporary YA is never my first choice, although there are a few exceptions. I always enjoyed escaping into impossible worlds more than I enjoyed reading about this one. That’s why Lumatere Chronicles will always be the first books I’ll pick up when I need to be reminded of the magic Marchetta creates with words. (Josie Alibrandi would be my second choice, but not before I reread both Finnikin and Froi). To make the long story short, thank you, Chachic, for having us, and thank you, Melina Marchetta, for giving us amazing books to talk about.

Favorite book:

Lisa: Can I plead the fifth?

This question is unfair. I like both Finnikin and Froi in different ways. I thought the general message was deeper in Finnikin but Froi is on a whole different level plot-wise.

Maja: I agree that it’s a difficult question to answer, almost impossible, but at the end of the day, I think I prefer Froi of the Exiles. As much as I liked Finnikin of the Rock (in fact, I think it was the first high fantasy novel I ever really loved), in many ways, Froi of the Exiles seemed more mature to me. I think that’s why many people think that it isn’t exactly YA. There is more of everything in Froi: more love, more disaster, more suffering, more characters to care deeply about.

Best scene:

Lisa: Oddly enough, the most intense scene for me was in Finnikin though; I won’t easily forget those mass graves anytime soon.

Maja: For me, the most powerful scenes are always more personal. Without spoiling too much, the scene that really stayed with me happened between Froi and Quintana in a cave. I remember shaking like a leaf and rereading it two times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

You get so poetical 😀

Lol, you’re mean. 😛

Well, I can just picture you shaking like a leaf in the wind 😀 I am most certainly not mean.

Wait! I got another scene that impressed me (this is spoilerish). When Arjuro’s eyes bleed because he sees the golden writings.

Best male character:

Lisa: Again, I feel like we’re comparing David and Goliath here, for some reason. My best male character is certainly Froi, hands down; his character development is amazing when compared to say, Finnikin’s, starting from when we meet him in the first book as a streetrat to his predominant role in, duh, Froi of the Exiles.

Maja: You know I simply adore Froi. He is tough on the surface, but his vulnerability is so obvious that it makes me very protective of him. He is a character that aims for your maternal instincts. But I still think I like Finnikin just a little bit more, simply because it’s impossible not to love him.

I guess I like Froi more than you because my instincts toward him are so NOT maternal. 😀

Really? Huh. I never really saw him that way. Finnikin yes, but not him. Maybe because he’s so damaged.

Best female character:

Maja: Lirah (character in Froi of the Exiles) because she’s a survivor at all costs. After everything that life threw at her, she is still beautiful and fierce. I also love her dry sense of humor that shines through when you least expect it. I know you expected me to pick either Evanjalin or Quintana, and to be honest, I did too, but when I really thought about it, I was absolutely sure it’s Lirah.

I’ll be definitely more banal than you Maja and say Quintana. I like my characters to be complex, unpredictable and of different shades of grey (this is the moment when you wonder why, exactly, do I read all that vanilla romance… good question. The answer is: I also like when my brain turns to mush, ok?) So Quintana is an amazing character throughout all the second book. I expect a lot from her and can’t wait to see what happens in “her” book.

Most annoying character:

Lisa: In the first book, Froi. Yes, really. I kept wondering what his purpose in the economy of the book was supposed to be. I didn’t even know there was a Froi of the Exiles in the works. I loathed him for his behavior and found him downright slimy. What a transformation in the second book.

In Froi, the most annoying character for me was Gargarin. I hated Bestiano, but Gargarin was just like a fly buzzing around me on a hot day (see? I can be poetical too :D)

Maja: Haha, yes, you’re just like Neruda on one of his most productive days. To be honest, I don’t have a most annoying character. Bestiano scared the bejeebers out of me, and I kind of liked grumpy Gargarin.

There were characters I despised and characters I adored, but I felt they were all essential.


Grazie, Lisa! Hvala, Maja! I guess it’s pretty obvious from this post that Melina Marchetta excels in writing both in the contemporary and fantasy genres. We can’t say the same thing for other authors.

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Nomes of Inkcrush

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 😦 )

my current copy of Looking for Alibrandi, surrounded by some other Aussie faves. (I wanted to take a pic of all my MM books, but a couple are out with friends atm)


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.

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Megan Whalen Turner

Remember Queen’s Thief Week back in January? I made a stunning discovery when Melina Marchetta’s guest post went up: Megan Whalen Turner is also a fan of MM’s work. You can just imagine how excited I was to discover this – mutual author love FTW! So of course I had to ask MWT if she’d be willing to write anything for Marchetta Madness. She kindly said yes.


There are many things to love in Melina Marchetta’s book, but selfishly, what I love best are the parents. In fairy tales, the first step was always to kill off the parents so that the next generation could go off and have adventures. Modern authors frequently do the same. (So many dead mothers in those Newbery Medal books, not to mention one or two in mine.) For variety’s sake, we sometimes throw in bad parents instead of dead ones, those who are either absent or so dreadful that you wish they were absent.

There are dead parents, missing parents, and dreadful parents in Marchetta’s books, but there are just as many loving and attentive parents. I’m glad because the unfortunate side effect of having all adventures and problems begin with absent or awful parents is the underlying assumption that kids with good parents don’t have adventures and moreover don’t have problems. That’s a mistaken and disturbing assumption. On the upside, good parents don’t have to get in the way of adventures. On the downside, as Marchetta shows so eloquently, even the best parents can’t protect their kids all the time.

Thank you, MWT, for allowing me to encourage readers of your books to pick up Melina Marchetta’s novels (and vice versa). I know how busy you must be so I appreciate that you were able to squeeze in a guest post. Be blessed in your endeavors!

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post from Flannery of The Readventurer

I first met Flannery of The Readventurer through Goodreads. I’d seen her awesome reviews floating around and immediately wanted to be friends with her. She actually wrote a lovely post about Melina Marchetta the other day together with her co-bloggers, Tatiana and Catie, which you can check out here. Here’s Flannery, talking about The Piper’s Son, the companion novel to Saving Francesca.


I’m a firm believer that the quality of a book is not to be judged solely on the skill of the writer to craft sentences and tightly plot a story. Of course those things matter to an extent, but to me the value of a book increases exponentially if those finely-tuned sentences make me, as a reader, feel something for the character or recollect a memory from my own life. How many times have I read a book where someone close to the main character dies? A staggering number of times, but very few of them have actually made me revisit the pain I felt of losing someone special. How many times have I read a book where someone falls for someone else? Likewise, a huge number, but rarely in a way that brings butterflies skittering around my stomach in remembrance. My favorite book by Melina Marchetta is The Piper’s Son because it does both. It achieves both of these feats and so much more. Here’s a picture I drew as a placeholder for my Jellicoe Road review on Goodreads because Marchetta has the ability to rip the heart out of your chest and then serve it back to you, bit by bit, and you’ll enjoy the process:

Melina Heart

This is totally appropriate for The Piper’s Son

I think one of my favorite aspects of The Piper’s Son is the entire element of forgiveness, both in terms of family and friends. In the sickest of ways, it is those people who have the ability to hurt us the most but there are just some people you can never cut loose. Ever. I guess I see families (and friend groups, which are basically interchangeable with family to me) as a constant balancing act. At any given time, some people are completely stable, some are teetering, and others are holding on with the ends of their fingertips. As a friend and family member, I feel a duty to at least attempt to achieve equilibrium, whether or not that is possible. Young adult books always run the risk of glossing over actual emotional content — a friend will say something awful, the two characters stop talking, maybe a few jabs (verbal or physical) are exchanged, then they have a conversation and make up. Or hold the grudge forever. The Piper’s Son opens with Tom in the hospital. He hasn’t spoken to Francesca (from Saving Francesca) for ages but there she is, waiting for him when he awakens. The characters in TPS are angry for real reasons, they’re harboring so many emotions over events that happened in their lives and it all just feels so much more real than most YA books (or any books) I read. Marchetta writes this about Tom’s aunt Georgie, when she first sees him in the book: “[S]he’s walking across the road toward the house and there’s that look Tom’s become used to in his life with his aunt. It’s the unconditional love that flashes across someone’s face before they remember the shit.” (Loc. 189) Exactly. When I see my friends after some time has passed (years, in many instances) or I hear from my siblings, it’s the happy memories that come back first. The fun times. I can’t pretend I have as much drama going on in my life as the Finch and Mackee families do, but I’m sure it is a universal feeling. And a lot of those relationships are volatile at times, but would I be there for each and every one of them if they were in dire straits? I damn well better be, or I’m a lesser person than I think I am.

The US cover of The Piper’s Son makes me a little sad, not because it is an awful cover (it isn’t) but because the US publishers missed an opportunity to capture the image of loneliness (and perhaps despair) that is depicted so well on the Australian cover. I feel like this quote from the book, though it takes place in the evening, conveys the feeling present on the Aussie cover well: “Out here tonight, under the dullest of moons, Tom feels as if he’s the last man on earth. Six blocks east form the home he grew up in. Three blocks south from the university he dropped out of a year ago. Four blocks north of the bed he shared with Tara Finke that last night together when life made sense for one proverbial minute, before everything blew up.” (Loc. 109)

I don’t even find it necessary to tell you which cover is which.

Since I have neither the US cover nor the Aussie cover, this is how I reread about Tom and company:

I’m always worried that, upon rereading, a book won’t live up to the huge expectations my memory has built up for it over time. It sounds so cliché to say so, but I think my heart fell into its groove almost right away, maybe even on page one. They were all there—all the characters I love to love, from Georgie to Dom to Anabel. I know the fan favorite will always be Jellicoe. But if you’re looking for me, I’ll just be over there, chillin’ with the Mackees and Tom’s friends. They’re a messed up bunch for sure, but the foundations of their family and friendship are solid and I’m not going to find a more caring bunch of characters anywhere.

Thank you, Chachic, for giving me a reason to reread and reaffirm my love for The Piper’s Son. And because I said I would, here’s another picture, drawn just for the occasion. I’m not sure how familiar people in other countries are with the March Madness brackets for the US college basketball tournaments. I won’t go into it because I completely disregard how they work in my fake brackets for who would win a battle of contemporary YA authors:

Marchetta Madness

Marchetta Madness

As you can see, Melina Marchetta isn’t even participating in the early rounds, she just comes in to accept her prize at the end. It’s just as well. I love every author in those brackets but too many of my favorite books are written by one person.

Seize The Day,
The Readventurer


Thank you, Flann, for coming up with a guest post for my other favorite Marchetta! Love those illustrations and I totally agree with your brackets – Melina Marchetta will always come out as the winner.

Check out these Marchetta Madness posts in other blogs:
Alex talks about Marchetta’s secondary characters over at A Girl, Books and Other Things

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliphile

While I was planning Marchetta Madness, I knew I had to ask my good friend Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile to do a guest post (FYI she’s a fellow Melina Marchetta AND Megan Whalen Turner fan). I was delighted when she said she’ll do one about Saving Francesca, one of Marchetta’s contemporary YA novels. Give it up for Brandy!

How Saving Francesca Often Saves My Day

When people first began telling me I had to read Melina Marchetta’s books all the recommendations revolved around Jellicoe Road. I, in a completely typical move to only partially do what everyone was telling me, read Saving Francesca first instead. I of course followed it up quickly with Jellicoe Road and any other Marchetta book within reach, but Saving Francesca has remained my favorite and is the one I come back to most often. When I am in a bad mood or just feeling like life is working against me that is my go to book to feel better. Strange I know. It is not your typical “feel good” read. However books speak to us all in individual ways and that one never fails to make me feel better. Why is that?

I think it is mainly because I have had so many similar experiences to Francesca, but they are also different enough that reading her story doesn’t make me feel as though I’m reliving my own past. That is one of the aspects I appreciate most about Melina Marchetta’s writing, her ability to write such individual and complex characters that can still hold a universal appeal. I can see a little of myself in all of them, but they all have such unique personalities that I can never mistake them for myself and can therefore learn from them. Reading Saving Francesca is also the reminder I need on bad days that friendship is important and that the community we are a part of can make or break us. This is a common theme in all of Marchetta’s novels, but the ways it plays out in that one speaks to me the most. I have a tendency to want to seal myself off from the world and not want to deal with other people because it’s messy. Francesca’s story reminds me of the impact we have on each other as a group of friends and the way one small part of a community can change the greater community as a whole.

It should also be noted that I very much like Will and that plays a major role in my love for rereading this book. Of all the Marchetta boys he is the one I probably hear the least about, but it doesn’t get much better than him as far as I’m concerned. (Probably because he reminds me of my husband. You know that line where Francesca thinks, “I’m in love with a droid!”? I have this same thought at least three times a day.) I love the banter between the two of them and how the ways they are different from each other is what makes them so perfect together. Sigh.

And now I am feeling overcome with the urge to read the book again right this minute. And I’ll probably follow it up with a little bit of The Piper’s Son as well because how could I not?


I agree, books speak to us all in different ways. Thank you, Brandy, for sharing with us why Saving Francesca means so much to you. Also for giving Will some love – I think he took quite a beating in some of the other Marchetta Madness posts/comments. 😛 You’ve convinced me that I need to reread both Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son soon.