But sometimes an obsession goes beyond the temporary gratification of the moment, beyond the consumer hype of whatever thing is hottest right now. Sometimes my obsessions are too big to ever relegate to a sarcastic gif montage. Sometimes, my obsession is Queen Melina Marchetta, and I can’t do her justice.
Melina Marchetta is Queen
I don’t think I’ve ever written a post solely about Melina Marchetta and her books. Sure, I talked about Jonah Griggs here. And confessed my love of a good re-read (especially a Finnikin one) here. And there was that time I tried to badger her into just writing more words. The time I gave her not one, but TWO, coveted spots on my list of Books That Ruined Me. Once I put her writing more novels as my #1 fandom wishlist. And, of course, she tops my Book Suggestions Post.
But I’ve never dedicated space to just talking about Melina Marchetta, her books and what they mean to me or why you should read them. And I’ll be honest: I’m intimidated. I’m not sure I have the ability to put into words the profundity of her impact. The original title of this post was Melina Marchetta Writes Perfect Novels; Beth Fails to Write Mediocre Post About Them. Because, honesty.
But, there is NEWS about Melina’s newest book (yes, she’s writing more. Praise Be!), so I figured I would finally give it go. If you’ve never read any Marchetta books, I’m going to give you a short primer into why you need to stop right now and make them your first reads of 2016.
Looking for Alibrandi
Marchetta’s first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, rose to huge critical acclaim, especially in Australia where it became a staple of literature curricula for public schools. It’s about family and females and finding your way as young woman. It has so many awards that it would be boring to list them all, but I will tell you that it won the title of “most stolen library book” which is freaking badass as hell. And still, it’s my least favorite of her books. Because she only gets better.
Saving Francesca is young adult book that’s simply about people, about relationships, about family. Nothing flashy. No dystopia, no werewolves, no apocalypse. Just the quiet destruction of a young girl’s life as her mother starts to self-implode. There’s romance, there’s friendship, humor and heart. There’s cranky Will Trombal and Francesca’s obsession with him. And still, as good as it is, it’s not my favorite Marchetta novel.
The Piper’s Son
When I picked up The Piper’s Son I was sure that I was getting a satisfying sequel to Saving Francesca … the New Adult version of Will Trombal and Francesca’s life together. But what I got instead was a novel even more complex, about the characters in Saving Francesca that were in the background but always fully realized. I just didn’t realize that I wanted to read more of them. That is one of the things Marchetta excels at: giving us bits and pieces of fully formed characters whom you love and relate to even without their full story.
Georgie and Tom take center stage in this book with heart-wrenching familial ties and the power of forgiveness.
And now we come to the hard part where I have to choose between Jellicoe Road and Melina’s fantasy series for the top spot. I don’t think I can do it. So let me just lay out for you why Jellicoe is so so so so fabulous.
This book is exactly not what you think it’s going to be. The first 85 pages will confuse the hell out of you. The main character is as confused as you about her place in her world. There is a secondary story full of kids with other names that you aren’t going to understand until the end. The dude you are supposed to swoon over? You get introduced to him while he abuses another kid. It’s frightful and fabulous. She weaves a tale that will make you soar with swoon and sorrow. I read it AT LEAST once a year. It is a perfect novel.
The Lumatere Chronicles
I’m lumping Marchetta’s last three novels Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn (and short story, Ferragost) together as one because, well, they are a trilogy and I CANNOT and WILL NOT choose between them. They are perfect fantasy novels.
These are books of SO MUCH HOPE that they ooze it. Fantasy novels are often rife with their own mythologies, their special powers, and their unique world-building. Marchetta simply chose a landscape, gave it a name and populated it with people you want to root for and relate to. She masterfully makes you care about everyone. She takes a speech-impaired, would-be rapist and thief from the first novel and turns him into the protagonist of the next without a blip, without balk. There are characters here who have stories from 20, 30 or 40 years earlier that you are DYING to read just as you get glimpses of them. Her world is rich. Her characters are real. These books are compulsively readable.
Shaming the Devil
And now we come to the news. Queen Marchetta is gracing us with more of her perfect words in 2016 with a new novel entitled, Shaming the Devil. In her recent blog post, she promised that it would be out in September of this year. Here’s what we can expect.
As you probably know, it’s a crime thriller, but I can’t see it not suiting most of the readership I’ve come to know. My main focus in writing is always the relationships, the characters and the communities they find themselves part of. For now, I’ll leave you with a couple of lines from the letter sent to me early last year by my Australian publisher, Ben Ball.
… It’s alternately gripping, moving, challenging, and funny – it feels, somehow, genuine and joyous, despite its darker sections. It feels somehow wholehearted. It’s about family, loss, adolescence, middle-age, old age … it captures an enormous chunk of the world.
Here’s the official summary:
Bashir “Bish” Ortley is a London desk cop. Almost over it. Still not deaing with the death of his son years ago, as well as the break up of his marriage.
Across the channel, a summer bus tour, carrying a group of English teenagers is subject to a deadly bomb attack, killing four of the passengers and injuring a handful of others. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.
The suspect is 17 year old Violette LeBrac whose grandfather was responsible for a bombing that claimed the lives of dozens of people fourteen years ago; and whose mother, Noor, has been serving a life sentence for the part she was supposed to have played in the attack.
As Bish is dragged into the search for the missing Violette, he finds himself reluctantly working with Noor LeBrac and her younger brother, Jimmy Sarraf.
And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more Bish realizes that they may have got it wrong all those years ago, and that truth wears many colours. Especially when it comes to the teenagers on board the recent bus bombing. Including his daughter.
Tell the truth. Shame the devil. Bish can’t get Violette LeBrac’s words out of his head. But what he may get is some sort of peace with his own past as the worlds of those involved in two bombings, years apart, collide into the journey of his life.
GIVE IT TO ME NOW. Honestly, this could be Melina’s latest on-hold-with-customer-service doodle and I would eat it up.
The young adult book reading community has known for years that Melina Marchetta is one of the greats, if not THE greatest, author of the genre. I hope if this post hits you like a wrecking ball of ignorance of her glory, it will inspire you to go read EVERY WORD she’s ever written. You won’t be disappointed.
What is your favorite Marchetta novel? Do you have a favorite Marchetta Book Boyfriend? Hands off Jonah.