It was surprising how much I enjoyed this book. It was not fast-paced, nor exciting and the first few pages had me doubting if I could come to like the author's style. The characters, however, are what made it. I very much disliked Francesca at the beginning. She chose horrible friends, was unwilling to take any risks and was complacent whenever anyone else was being treated terribly. I understand now, that Francesca had to start from a place this low in order to show the growth she did by the end of the novel. Once the others worm their way into Francesca's life, the story is much more enjoyable. I often lament that authors attempt to write about teenagers without having spent any time with them. They could learn a thing or two from Marchetta (I'm talking to you Maggie Stiefvater). The dialogue and interactions between the characters feels real and has an appropriate amount of poor language for the age group. I found myself wanting to hang out with the girls on Alanis night and I cracked up at the boys antics. This was my first foray into the world of Melina Marchetta and I couldn't quite come up for air yet, so I immediately started The Piper's Son. Side Notes:- Literally laughed out loud at several points, including rosary night and the S biscuits (These tidbits are what makes for good reading - take note authors).- Literally "Yes"d (imagine fist pump in the air a la Bender in the last scene of The Breakfast Club) when Francesca got up to dance with Thomas- Love Thomas "For a moment I can't help thinking how decent he is - that there's some hope for him beyond the obnoxious image he displays. Maybe deep down he is a sensitive guy, who sees us as real people with real issues. I want to say something nice. Some kind of thanks. I stand there, rehearsing it in my mind. 'Oh my God,' he says, 'did you see that girl's tits?' Maybe not today.- Love Jimmy, especially how he follows Francesca home despite being told "You're not coming home with me, Jimmy", and how he calls her father Rob, despite the fact that he clearly hates it. Some Weirdness...- "My grandmother's disapproval of the way Mia runs the household is very vocal. I shouldn't walk around naked in front of my brother, for example, and nor should my mother." WTF? I'm going to wholeheartedly agree with Nonna on this one!" - "I loved those times on the beach at the end of the day, when the sun was gone and our sunburn would make us shiver in the cool breeze. Luca and I would lie against my parents, licking the salt off their arms ..." Seriously???I realize the book is written by an Australian and takes place there, is this some type of cultural barrier between Australia and Canada? Or is it just that Francesca's family is a little strange, because seriously, I'm an adult and seeing my parents walking around naked would still scar me for life and I can't, even in a post-apocalyptic world, imagine a circumstance in which I would be tempted to lick salt off of them - *shiver*.