Reviewed by Dianne Bates
On the front cover, Melina Marchetta describes the book’s protagonist as ‘a gutsy character with a lot of heart.’ Certainly Frankie Vega is gutsy; she’s also full of vitriol, so much so that when the book starts she stands accused of viciously (and inexplicably) attacking a fellow school student and breaking his nose which earns her a suspension. Abandoned by her mother, Juliet, Frankie lives with her aunt Vinnie who runs a kebab shop and who is forever giving her niece a second chance.
As the book starts, a teenage boy turns up claiming to be Frankie’s half-brother. From then on, Xavier comes and goes until it’s obvious that he’s well and truly missing which involves Frankie in a search with him, aided by Nate who has secrets of his own.
This is a fast-paced, action-filled story full of cool (and oppositional) attitude with authentic, snappy dialogue laced with much bad language. Frankie is a character who some teen readers are sure to empathise with, but she’s a difficult girl; adults, such as her aunt, psychiatrist and principal, find almost impossible to deal with. Certainly she’s rude and brutal and honest.
This gripping and dark novel about searching for the truth, finding yourself and falling in love, ends with a bang, certainly not a whimper. Many teenage girls in particular will relate to this debut novel by Australian Shivaun Plozza.