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Looking for Alibrandi

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For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.

Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.

313 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 1992

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About the author

Melina Marchetta

30 books7,553 followers
Melina Marchetta was born in Sydney Australia. Her first novel, Looking For Alibrandi was awarded the Children's Book Council of Australia award in 1993 and her second novel, Saving Francesca won the same award in 2004. Looking For Alibrandi was made into a major film in 2000 and won the Australian Film Institute Award for best Film and best adapted screen play, also written by the author. On the Jellicoe Road was released in 2006 and won the US Printz Medal in 2009 for excellence in YA literature. This was followed up by Finnikin of the Rock in 2008 which won the Aurealis Award for YA fantasy, The Piper's Son in 2010 which was shortlisted for the Qld Premier's Lit Award, NSW Premier's Lit Award, Prime Minister's Literary Awards, CBC awards and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Her follow up to Finnikin, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn were released in 2012 and 2013. Her latest novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is an adult crime novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,715 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
February 1, 2019
this book is like a dragon egg. it is somewhat unusual compared to others of its kind, and it is pretty, but you know that when it hatches it is going to let loose some magnificent beast beyond human reckoning.

marchetta is a magnificent dragon.

and this book is good, and you can see the beginnings of what she will become, but it is definitely a first novel, before she understood her own power.

i reluctantly love josie alibrandi (although we are not friends, so i must call her josephine) she is a complete teenager: she picks silly fights with her mother and grandmother and acts like a little brat, she has a completely mystifying relationship with a boy whose behavior is equally littered with teenage sulks and irrational outbursts, she succumbs to peer pressure and complicates her own life, she gets in fights and acts out in wildly erratic and melodramatic ways. completely unlike myself as a teenager. koff.

but even though most of the time you want to smack her and send her to her room, you can tell that once she reigns in all that energy and free-floating rage, she is going to turn into a captivating adult character. probably in another marchetta book.

her relationship with her father is both uncomfortable to watch, but also ultimately satisfying. i kind of love how reluctant they both are to mean something to each other, and how awfully they behave. particularly him - even when he is trying to be nice, he is kind of a jerk, and it is oddly refreshing to have the adult character being just off enough to not be a good role model, but not flat-out evil the way it would be so easy to write in a less ambitious author's novel.

and her mother. ohhh. i want her to be happy.
that's all i can say there.

although most of the sandwiches i eat are thicker than this book, there is somehow plenty of room for her characters to grow, to come to realizations that feel natural and not literary. it doesn't feel smooshed, despite it being such a short book.

the italian-australian experience is one that i have encountered in other marchetta books,briefly, but nowhere else in my life. and i would have been blissfully unaware of this tension without her, but i really found it fascinating. not that people are cruel and xenophobic and classist, but the historical segments about her grandmother's experiences really came alive for me in a bigger way than the contemporary segments. i loved her grandmother, and if marchetta were ever to delve into historical fiction, i would be the first one there .

so the three stars is probably only in relation to what she has become, which is a consistent five-star writer. it is definitely worth reading, i just think it feels more like a typical YA book in scope, with some unexpected barbs than a marchetta masterpiece that kicks every other book out of its way. with its dragon wings.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
November 29, 2021
This YA novel is 30 year old. Still love the story and Josie's big mouth.
Update 6/13/2016. Love Josie and her big mouth.

Update 3/24/2012I feel like Josie and Jacob grow up to be Francesca's parents.

Original 2010 review
Enjoyed Melina Marchetta's debut novel very much, even though it was not as strong and heartbreaking as her Printz-winning Jellicoe Road.

Looking for Alibrandi is a simple coming-of-age story (oh, how I hate this expression!). Josephine is a 17-year old Australian of Italian descend. She is in her last year of school and it's a time in her life when she needs to face many important things - what does she want to be? how should she deal with her newly acquired father who appears after being MIA for 17 years? is it wise to date a boy from "the other side of the track"? how important is to her her ethnic identity?

I can't really pinpoint anything I didn't like about this book. It was not life-changing or earth-shattering, but Josephine's voice and personality felt fresh and realistic - she is a loud-mouth and sometimes obnoxious, but smart, funny, loving and with a strong moral compass. I liked her complex love-hate relationship with her mother and grandmother. The love story was sweet. And the novel had an interesting insight into cultural frictions between Australians (supposedly those descendant from the first Australian colonists and, of course, white) and Europeans (more recent immigrants). Whatever I read didn't inspire me to think of Australia as a culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse or tolerant country. However the book was written almost 20 years ago, maybe it is different now?

All in all, an interesting, quick and light read. Very much a debut novel.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,051 reviews1,050 followers
May 5, 2016

“Things don’t turn out the way you want them to. And sometimes, when they don’t, they can turn out just a little bit better.”

If anyone would ask me what makes up the best YA contemporary novel, I’d simply say, “Read Looking for Alibrandi." It makes me appreciate that I’ve read this just now because had I read it years ago, the rest of these YA contemporaries would have probably been a little letdown.

To tell you honestly, nothing about the plot is too complex to make it special. It’s basically a story of Josephine Alibrandi, a 17 year old Aussie-Italian girl on her way to discovering her place in the world. But how the story was put across through the use of these amazing elements of diversity, culture, humor, social impact, authenticity and even romance were what made the story so current (even though it’s actually already a classic novel), so adorable, so touching, so real and so hilarious (I can’t stop laughing at the 90s fad: shoulder-pads, teased hair, Mills & Boons-LMAO!)

I am used to Ms. Marchetta’s beautiful, sophisticated and usual flowery writing but of the three books of her I’ve read, her simple, heartfelt writing style here is what has completely won me over. I have a full page dedicated only for the quotes I copied from the book. Click the spoiler if you want to read some of them.

I wasn’t so much a Melina Marchetta fan then but I definitely am now and I can’t remember the last time I loved a character as much as I love Josephine. Every teenage girl or even boy should read this novel, even adults should.^^

P.S. Happy Birthday, Marla Babes! (May 1 is her birthday) I know this is too early but I might be too busy the next few days so better early than late. Lol. I wish you all the best and may your special day be full of wonderful surprises. <3 <3 <3
Profile Image for Flannery.
311 reviews
September 1, 2011
When I was in school, we routinely had to complete projects about our heritage. People asked (and still ask) “what are you?” meaning what is your nationality. A lot of these projects ended up with discussions about why third or fourth generation Americans still call themselves Irish, Italian, Korean, Filipino, Greek, etc. instead of saying they are American first. My blood is pretty watered down at this point—Irish, Swedish, German, Spanish…but it really doesn’t matter. I’m sure kids in other primarily immigrant countries had to do the same kinds of projects/presentations. I identify most with the mish-mash of cultural traditions that my immediate family celebrates and those of my dearest friends than those of any specific country from which my ancestors hailed. Sometimes I wish I was full-blooded something, or at least enough that I could be part of an ethnic community but until American Mutt becomes an ethnic category I think I’m out of luck. It is fun to go crazytime on St. Patrick’s Day, make Pepparkakor, and put sauerkraut on tons of stuff though. As much as I couldn’t connect with Josie’s Italian culture, I totally understood the Catholic school and community situation. It’s a close-knit community and everyone knows everyone else’s business. This is especially true when people have a lot of siblings. (Josie was perhaps lucky in that regard) And feeling guilty about everything? GUILTY! Anyway, I totally understood Josie’s confusion about her identity and her and several other characters’ confusion about their futures.

I kept putting this book off because it was the last contemporary YA Marchetta book that I’d yet to read, and I’ve been told many times that it was probably her weakest book. (which to me meant that it would still be better than 98% of the YA out there) Turns out I think it was my favorite Melina Marchetta reading experience to date. The narrator for the audiobook was perfect. I watched the movie the other day and I almost wished (slash actually did wish) that some of the characters had the narrator’s voice instead of the actors’ voices. I wish I could take back watching the movie because it felt trivial compared the book. I suppose that is what I truly enjoyed most about the book, though—Josie was living everyday life and getting up to no good with her friends, seeing a boy her family might disapprove of, and feuding with a girl at school but all the while she was thinking of her cultural identity, what she would do in the future, how people’s individual life choices affect where their paths go, and about the difference between sadness and pure despair.

I think I felt a real affinity to Josie as a student-- our experiences weren’t that far off. All-girl’s Catholic school. Uniforms. Nuns. She is much more of an overachiever than I was. I never cut school but I used to leave early when I had free periods to hang out at my sister’s apartment and play cards and watch movies. (oooo, rebel.) Anyway, I’m sure you all don’t give a crap about my high school antics and really, if you aren’t already reading Melina Marchetta’s books, I don’t know what I could do to persuade you. I could tell you that her books are beautifully written, that each one of them is emotional in a different way, that her characters are multidimensional, that she understands families and friendships more than most authors, and that each one of her books is a favorite of mine. All of that is true, and if you haven’t already started reading her back catalog, you are truly missing out. But if you’re still reading this I bet you’re my friend and you already have read one or more of her books. That’s one of the reasons you are awesome. (Yeah, you.)
Profile Image for Basuhi.
32 reviews242 followers
December 16, 2013
5 "Cloaked by Reminiscence" Stars.


The seventeen Janis Ian sang about where one learns the truth. But what she failed to mention is hat you keep learning truths after seventeen, and I want to keep on learning truths till I die.

Oh yes, again.

Melina Marchetta, I'm telling you, people are going to think I write repetitive reviews for your books because I'm in a severe dearth of adjectives now.

Amazing ?

Lovely ?

Beautiful ?

I ended up in the thesaurus looking for synonyms but well, I couldn't get befitting ones.

So I think I'll just stick to my idiosyncratic analogy/allegory musing stuff.

Have you ever wandered empty school hallways ?

It's like you almost don't recognize it as the same one you walk every day.

There is a sense of allness in the crass cacophony, which you'd never think twice about if not for it's aching absence.
This book is like that. The people in your life seem so vain, for granted and lost in the boisterous crowd of "those you happen to know".

But do you, really, really know them ?

A catacomb made of people's notions and sentiments that run parallel to a rather honest and rudimentary conundrum.

"How to make ones life ones own ?"

You know, a wonderful thing happened to me when I reflected back on my year.

"One day" came.

Because I finally understood.

And this is a glimpse at her life:

Josephine Alibrandi's life is suddenly changed, she didn't know who her father was a few months ago but now he's her friend.

She's stuck in the insular Italian community and doesn't feel quite here or there.

This is her senior year, in a private girls school she's studying on scholarship, among rich snobs and she's trying to make best of it.

And she's falling in and out of love.

And the translucent walls of dubiety have finally given way to the transparency of truth.

So you see, these are NOT "the-world-is-ending" kind of colossus of a problem.
Just a teenage girl's day to day quandaries complicated by some unknown variables that have pounded into her life.

The protagonist is a lost voice of solitary contemplation among societal expectations and dissonant opinions.

This is a simple yet poignant story that has a much profound allusion than is apparent.
It paints reality in a way that has me mesmerized.
And as a debut novel, it simply unveils Melina Marchetta's beauty at writing, I suppose.
Profile Image for Maggie.
432 reviews429 followers
April 4, 2013
The first Marchetta. The only one I hadn't read. It was as precious to me as a last born in Charyn and I kept it hidden away for as long as I could. And then Carla declared that it was time to break the emergency glass on this book.

Josephine Alibrandi had me from the beginning. I knew I was dealing with a kindred spirit when on page 5 she says,
"Believe me, I could write a book about problems. Yet my mother says that as long as we have a roof over our head we have nothing to worry about. Her naivete really scares me."
Josie is whip smart, a scholarship student at a fancy private school who dreams about being a lawyer. She's been raised in the loving bosom of her single mother, Christina, who got pregnant at 16, and the suffocating bosom of her grandmother, Nonna Katia, who moved to Australia from Italy at 17. She knows her father is Michael Andretti, the boy next door, but she's never met him. Then one day, Michael Andretti shows up to visit her grandmother. Suddenly, the HSC (High School Certificate), mean girls, and her overbearing Nonna are the least of her problems. And then there's Jacob Coote, the boy from Cook High who caught her attention with a speech about voting and who dances pretty well too.

Guys, I never realized I was Italian-Australian. Okay, all joking aside, I know it's Marchetta and she speaks to me as few authors do, but still, imagine my surprise that as an ethnic Korean born and raised in the US, Josie Alibrandi is a character I related to on such a personal level. I can't even think of another character who comes close. Growing up, I remember thinking how much easier it would be if my family was European instead of Asian. It's not that I disliked who I was, but oh, to not have to prove my Americanness or my ability to speak English, to not have to worry about people pulling their eyes back and telling me to "go back to my country." I knew other immigrants and minorities dealt with their own prejudices, but I was convinced that Europeans, who didn't look so obviously foreign, had an easier time. Actually, scratch that. I was convinced they had an easy time, period. Josie's opinion of rich students like Ivy Lloyd and John Barton reminded me of that. She was sure their privilege cocooned them from her harsh reality. As a young girl, she was ostracized for being a bastard child by other Italians. As a student, she was called out for being on scholarship by other wealthy students. However, when someone says they would hate to be Italian after listening to her, she says,
"No. You can't hate what you're part of. What you are. I resent it most of the time, curse it always, but it'll be part of me till the day I die."
This. A thousand times this. I don't think you can sum up the immigrant experience in a few words, but this is pretty damn close.

I know I'm making it sound like an issue book because I was so impressed with Marchetta's portrayal of it, but it's not -- or it's not just that. I'm not surprised it's considered a modern classic in Australia and studied in school. Josie actually reminded me of another classic character. Remember when I was talking about gumption?
"I'm not ready for heaven yet and I don't think heaven is ready for me."
Josie, the spitfire, reminded me so much of Anne Shirley. They're both dreamers who won't settle for the status quo. Or personal attacks. Slates are nothing compared to modern science books. Jacob Coote, though, is no Gilbert Blythe. Still, Josie's interactions with Jacob, and her decision whether or not to sleep with him, and her regret at said decision, and her regret at her regret were so honest.

I don't think this is the best Marchetta (that honor goes to The Piper's Son and Froi of the Exiles), but it's the one closest to my heart.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

This review appears on Young Adult Anonymous.


I know. Click for more info.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,957 reviews277 followers
December 13, 2017
So it seems Melina Marchetta’s modern classic, Looking for Alibrandi, which has been studied in high schools across Australia, has escaped my attention until now. With the exception of the film version that I watched when it was released back in 2000. The opportunity to participate in a read along of this novel with a bookworm friend finally allowed me to discover the work of well-known Australian novelist Melina Marchetta.

The vivacious and perceptive narrator of Melina Marchetta’s novel, Looking for Alibrandi, is Josephine Alibrandi. We meet Josephine ‘Josie’ Alibrandi at one of the most pivotal and tumultuous years of her life. Josie is seventeen, sitting her all important HSC where she holds a scholarship at a wealthy Catholic school and has aspirations to become a barrister. Josie’s year is a big one as she negotiates a renewed relationship with her absent father, delves into her first romance, learns a family secret or two and sadly experiences the loss of someone close to her. Looking for Alibrandi highlights the experience of what it is like to be a young woman growing up in Australian in the 1990’s and how it feels to be a third generation immigrant. We can learn a thing or two from this award-winning and popular coming of age piece of YA literature.

Looking for Alibrandi is one of those books that I should have read many years ago, but unfortunately didn’t and as I went to high school in the UK, I didn’t get the chance to read this via the school curriculum. I am making up for lost time through participating in a read long experience with a dear friend of mine. I thoroughly appreciated my first experience with Melina Marchetta.

The first thing that struck me about Looking for Alibrandi was the main character, 17-year-old Josie Alibrandi’s voice. Gosh, it seemed to come across as loud and clear! The characterisation is quite exemplary. This doesn’t just extend to the lead, but to the supporting character list, from Josie’s protective and devoted mother Christina, stoic Nonna, disconnected father Michael, first love Jacob, partner in arms John Barton, enemy Ivy and Josie’s friend set of Sera and Anna. Each and every one of these characters was perfectly realised, they appeared before my eyes so clearly.

For a YA novel, Marchetta tackles some fairly big issues but this is handled with a deft and light hand. From class differences, racism, prejudice, immigration, politics, education, careers and suicide, Marchetta covers a great deal within the one novel. A few of these issues did seem a little outdated, such as Josie’s illegitimacy and the ethnic relations in Josie’s school, as the book was written over twenty years ago. Readers will still find they are able to connect to the themes highlighted in Looking for Alibrandi.

As much as this is a superb coming of age tale of a young Australian girl with strong Italian roots, Looking for Alibrandi is a novel that delves into the complex nature of family relationships, head-on. There is the typical mother daughter relationship between Josie and her mother, full of tensions that we come to expect from a teenage girl. There is the fragile relationship between Josie’s mother Christina and her own mother, stemmed from strained family relations. Then there is the father-daughter relationship that sparks between Josie and her father who re-enters her life. Finally, Josie’s relationship between two boys that are the same age as her, but come from very different sides of the tracks, was a shining part of the novel for me and of course the part of the novel that moved me the most.

My final word on the brilliance of this groundbreaking YA novel, is the Sydney based setting. There are plenty of flowing and detailed descriptions of Sydney. From Josie’s brilliantly realised home in Glebe, through to some familiar spots in Sydney that I recall from a trip I made to the city many years ago. Marchetta’s prose took me right back there, despite the time that had passed since I was last at this stunning part of Australia. For international readers, Marchetta really showcases the city and seems to capture the real Sydney.

All in all, I am so very grateful for the experience of reading Looking for Alibrandi. I am now able to see why this book has received so many accolades both awards wise and the personal endorsements that this beautifully rendered book has received from fellow readers. A must read for both young adults (14+) and adults alike.
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews510 followers
May 31, 2011
I knew it. I just knew that my complete love for Melina Marchetta was clouded only by her 3rd person POV. And this book is the proof that I was right! I'm relieved I got that out of my system.

I loved this book. Loved it. It's up there with Saving Francesca and Jellicoe Road. But possibly, I loved this book even more than the others. Now I'm going to tell you why.

In 1956, my grand-uncle was 16 when he kissed his mum and dad goodbye, jumped on a boat and took off for Australia in search of fortune with his aunt.
My grand-aunt, his future wife, was 3 when her whole family left the teeny tiny village of Caltrano, Italy, got on another boat and set off for the same country. They met there, married there, had children there and I'm pretty sure that's where they will die one day. They come visit once in while and, very rarely, we visit too. Last time I went there was eons ago, I was 16 and stayed with them for a whole summer.
I got to be sucked in the Italian community in Melbourne, was mesmerized by their inbreeding, shocked by their Sunday clubs where they gather and gorge on gargantuan amounts Italian food, I was rendered speechless by sold out concerts of bad, bad Italian singers who nobody in Italy wants to see ever again and that mysteriously gather huge crowds in Australia.
We're not like that in Italy, I thought. Not even close. Especially not us, in the North. When my cousin comes to Italy, he comes looking for his Roman roots, he says. And I reluctantly remind him that our family is actually more likely to have descended from the barbarians than from Romans. You think he cares? His eyes glaze over and I know he's dreaming of panem et circenses.

So that's not Italy. Except... when I really think about it, it actually is. Just... less. Emigrants in the 50s and 60s left the country and took with them all those mores and folklore that belonged to us. But then, they isolated and... mutated, in a way. But all of it is true. When I was in Australia with my relatives, all I could see were exasperated features of Italian culture, many of which belonged to the past. They even developed their own language, a mix of regional dialects and made-up words borrowed from English. Amazing.
The tomato day thing in the book? I have crystal clear memories of my gran and aunt doing that during my childhood just... in a less colorful way. And my mother in law still makes tomato sauce exactly that way every year, with tomatoes from her garden.

So.... yeah, a good part of my family are actually wogs. If you put that together with Marchetta's perceptive rendering of human emotions, her impressively smooth writing style and her usual excellence at characterization, you might see why I am actually fascinated by this book.

I swear I will read each and every word this woman will ever publish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

No wait! I have to add this favorite quote from the book:

"I just don't trust people who have bodies that change with their moods."

Boy, was this me as a teenager.

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Profile Image for Jülie ☼♄ .
498 reviews22 followers
July 28, 2015
Loved it!

Quotes I like from this book:

"It's an embarrassing contradiction when your mother gets pregnant out of wedlock because her Catholic upbringing prohibits contraception."

Lovable yet complex characters reveal a good portrait of the culture of 1950's Australia.

Australia was still so young and naive .... so ignorant and brash, like a pubescent teenager fumbling towards a maturity it doesn't yet comprehend.
The influx of immigrants bringing with them a confusion of fascination and fear. Their need to cling to the familiar...their own, somehow brought about a need in Australians to do likewise, each unwittingly fostering glaring cultural divides as they each vie and jostle for recognition and acknowledgement.
The irony was that they each felt alienated and threatened by the very same perceptions they had of one another.

Josephine Alibrandi is an Australian born of Italian descent, she is seventeen years old and lives with her mother who has raised her as a single parent...much to the chagrin of her own mother and her extended Italian family.
Being Italians they nurture strong principles when it comes to family and moral virtues, and Josephine's mother suffered a long and hard fall from grace when she fell pregnant out of wedlock and made the decision to keep her child.
Not only was her mother ostracized forever more by family and friends, but Josephine herself suffered throughout her childhood and teens from the cruel taunts of others, ranging from her fatherless upbringing to her Italian blood and her Australian birth, she struggled to find her niche.
Although Josephine carried the burden of these realities, she maintained a good sense of humour and a feisty disposition as she struggled with the pressures associated with coming of age.

With her HSC looming large and relationships with her family, teachers and even friends being stretched taut, Josephine was feeling the pressure of growing up and leaving her innocence behind.
If she thought life was already difficult enough, she was in for a real learning curve as life began to throw some very testing challenges in her way.
Josephine was about to grow up.

I loved this book, it is about contradictions, about how we perceive life, each other, values, things, and the consequences of our perceptions.

~This book made me think.
Do we ever truly understand anything? Providing things are fairly constant, we accept things as we understand them, and learn the ways to live with that understanding.
Then something happens one day which challenges those beliefs, or disproves them altogether, and totally throws us off kilter, literally erasing everything we believed and understood to be real...forcing us to re-evaluate our lives and everything that has shaped us...
And yet, if we had not made that discovery, what then? Do we ever truly understand anything? If we identify the lies we are forced to acknowledge them and are necessarily changed by that, but if we never identify the lies...does that mean they don't matter?
"Oh what a tangled web we weave"!

We so complicate things in our fervent desire for acceptance, and sell ourselves short in an effort to attain some intangible sort of (fake) nirvana, because we want to feel necessary.

I haven't come to any conclusions on my questions, but I am reminded of this favourite saying:
"All my life I wanted to be somebody
--only to discover that I am"

I can see why this book is a favourite in schools. I would definitely recommend it to all teenagers as well as adults.

I originally gave this 4★s but decided to change that to 5★s because it made me think, and laugh, and cry, and think some more.
Profile Image for Kerri.
989 reviews368 followers
May 19, 2020
Oh goodness, this book! I had it marked as read, but having finished it, I can confirm I actually haven't read it before - I'm usually very good at keeping track at what I've read, even without Goodreads, but I think this book got muddled in my head with another one because nothing felt familiar. Weirdly, I also thought I'd seen the film, but looking up the trailer, I'm almost certain I haven't, so now I'm trying to work out just what it was that I'd confused this story with!

So, I began this re-read, that turned out to be a first time read, and I loved it. Josie is a bit annoying and self-involved, the kind of character I tend to struggle with the most, but Melina Marchetta writes her so compellingly that I didn't mind. She leaps off the page, her thoughts and mouth going at a rapid pace. I had sympathy when more than one character suggest she close her mouth and listen for a change! She got better at considering others while staying true to herself as the book went on.
Her character evolution is wonderful, and completely believable. At the beginning she's a bit of snob, looking down on those who don't strive to be the things that she strives to be. She feels suffocated by her Italian family, especially her grandmother, she picks unreasonable fights with her mother, she is convinced that everyone looks down on her because she is Italian, a bastard child, on a scholarship. She has a chip on her shoulder (some of it justified) but over the course the novel how she comes to view all these things changes.
It was a wonderful journey, one I wish I had read when I was in high school myself. I can see why this is a modern Australian Classic - it deserves to be.

Before I started reading it, I Googled the movie. I figured that since I'd already read it I didn't have to worry about spoiling anything! So I started reading an article on The Guardian about the making of the film. As I read several spoiler filled paragraphs, I realised I was completely unfamiliar with the story. So, I accidentally went into the novel with the main plot points burned into my brain. Luckily this isn't a suspense novel or The Sixth Sense or something that works best if you don't know. The article was actually really interesting, I've just read it again, and I'll include a link on the off chance that anyone is interested, but don't read it if don't want to know all the main plot points!
Profile Image for Suz.
1,158 reviews606 followers
Want to read
January 25, 2021
Read in high school. Remember the movie - Matthew Newton?! Story of my life really. Shabby memory. My daughter has read, so I need to re-read this Aussie classic. She has a new one out, too. What am I waiting for? Too many books..
Profile Image for Sue.
781 reviews1,590 followers
September 11, 2015
“You know something, Jacob, I'd hate to be as smart as John. I mean he was really, really smart, and to be that smart means you know all the answers, and when you know all the answers there's no room for dreaming.”

To me, there are three different kinds of books, one where the book is simply unsatisfactory. Second where it is only appropriate for its certain era. And third where I just knew this book has made a lasting impression on me.

Looking for Alibrandi falls to the third category. From the very first page, I was captured by Marchetta's compelling writing and humorous characters filled with so much life. Looking for Alibrandi is timeless and should be rendered as classic as it rightfully deserve.

Since I don't see myself writing a proper review ever, I'll do a cliff note version of what made me laugh and cry.

• Feminism. Even though this book is set in 90's the feminist message was very much relevant and integrated to the plot and the characters's arc.

• Sex positive. Once again Marchetta's characters discuss that you can be sex positive, whether you dont like sex, you like sex or you don't give a fuck about sex. Amazeballs.

• FAMILY LOVE. FAMILY DRAMA. As expected from Marchetta, you'll find how family is very necessary to this story as well.

I'm certain I forgot a lot of things I genuinely adore about this book, but anyhow this is an incredible debut and just as powerful as Marchetta's following works.
Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews527 followers
March 3, 2011
Looking for Alibrandi is Melina Marchetta’s debut – and after the emotional rollercoaster that were Saving Francesca, Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son, I have to admit that I am a little underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, compared to a lot of other debuts, this one is still excellent, but on the Melina-Marchetta scale it is probably my least favourite (This sounds bad here, but except Finnikin, all her other novels are among my absolute all-time favourites).

Why? Simply because it didn’t tug on my heartstrings and it lacked this all-consuming, how-is-it-possible-that-books-like-these-even-exist-and-why-aren’t-there-more-of-them feeling that her other novels gave me. Maybe the reason for this is that while parts of Looking for Alibrandi were fantastic, there were simply some aspects I didn’t really care for. First of all, that was the friendship between the four girls. I admire the way Marchetta is able to bring unlikely friendships alive, but here, it played an almost subordinate role. We don’t get to know that much about Josephine’s friends and their relationship just didn't feel special to me. Also, I didn’t like the romance between Josie and Jacob. I have to admit that I have a little crush on both Jonah Griggs and Thomas Mackee, but on Jacob? Never. He just didn't feel developed enough for me to really care for him or even understand his motives. I fear I have to say that I strongly disliked him at times. There I was, rooting for John Barton the whole time .

On the other side, I loved Josie as a character – a little overdramatic and more than a little spoiled, but in a charming and refreshing way – and the love-hate relationship she had with her grandmother. The three women in the Alibrandi family definitely have it in them and I thought that both Christina’s and Nonna Katia’s story had so much more potential; I would have loved to hear more on that level. It was interesting to read about a different period in Australia’s history and how hard it sometimes was for immigrants to adjust – and how difficult it was to balance a culture you wanted to maintain and a culture you wanted to adapt to.
The relationship between Josie and Michael, her getting to know her father after he’d been absent for seventeen years was probably the most fun part of the story – even though I didn’t expect that at all. At the beginning, the atmosphere is very hostile between the two of them – understandable, as Michael tells Josie right away that he isn’t interested in being a father and she on the other side is furious that he left her mother back then – but soon they started warming up to each other and their conversations often were simply laugh-out-loud funny.

So in the end, even if this novel didn’t fully meet my expectations, I remain a glowing fan of Marchetta’s writing. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, you should definitely give her a try. In my opinion, she certainly deserves all the praise she’s been getting, and it makes me sad that her novels seem to be more of an ‘insider tip’ – Goodreads was the first place I ever saw people talking about them. So: go out there and read more Marchetta! I would even recommend starting with this book and working your way up – it probably makes for the better reading experience.

#2 Aussie YA Challenge 2011
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,488 reviews842 followers
August 8, 2018
I loved this, and reading it shortly after reading The Getting of Wisdom and Behind the Sun made an interesting contrast.

Josephine Alibrandi is telling her own story at the age of 18 about her last year of high school, her background, and her pals. She’s an out-of-place wog on scholarship who has a few good friends amid the snobs.

The Getting of Wisdom is a story told by Laura, describing her early years at a private school, her background, and her pals in the late 1800s. She’s an impoverished girl with patched clothes who doesn’t fit in and has trouble making friends with the private school girls.

Behind the Sun is a novel told about four 19th century teen-aged, misfits - convict girls who form a loyal alliance in prison and are transported to NSW for various offences. They fight off attacks from the other groups and predators.

Times may change, but teen-aged girls don’t – or not much, anyway. They love their families but champ at the bit to be free of them, because nobody really understands the pressures they are under. The pressures in all generations are similar – not having enough money for things they want, having trouble fitting in, feeling close to peers but distant and slightly embarrassed by relatives.

Josie is the illegitimate daughter, 'bastarda' of a 17-year old mum and now-absent schoolmate. She is forced to spend a lot of time with Nonna, her mum’s mother who insists on recounting the hardships of her early migrant years and is a source of constant, unwelcome, traditional advice.

“When I hear Nonna Katia tell me about how life was forty-odd years ago, I find it hard to believe that she was just seventeen, my age now, when she was married and taken halfway across the world. But then again, Mama was just seventeen when she gave birth to me so it makes me realise how young we youth of today really are.

Maybe we know more or think we know more, or do a lot more, but we haven’t been through as much. We’d never be able to cope with the pressures our mothers and grandmothers went through.

But I wonder about that seventeen-year-old girl back then. I wonder what really happened to her. I wonder what she used to dream about if she ever did dream and how she turned out to be a person I really don’t like. And worst of all I wonder if I’ll turn out to be just like her when I turn sixty-five.”

The language and dialogue is perfect for the times. Josie goes to the same concerts and school dances my kids did, and she describes her feelings for her family, schoolmates (and rivals), boyfriends and crushes accurately and well.

Beautifully and realistically written through the eyes of a 17-year-old who screams with joy and sobs with despair. As I said, not much really changes, does it?

I can see why it’s won awards and is studied in schools. Just tops!
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews122 followers
January 7, 2012
I'm good at the reviewing part. The thoughts come and I just jot them down, but damn I must have tried to write this one for at least 3 times now. And frankly I'm getting pissed off. So let me try this one more time.

It's the weakest Marchetta novel I've read to date. It doesn't pull on your heart-strings. And whereas her books are so character driven, I felt no connection to any character this time around (apart perhaps a little to John.) I did find how Josie dealt with not feeling accepted and trying to find herself interesting, though. Friends are often a topic of great focus to me when it comes to her books. But this time around I was very let down. We get like one line describing each mate of hers, and although it's explained that they are all very different from one another, I sensed no camaraderie, no affection, trust, or inkling that they even liked being around one another. I did not get the sense that they were close mates whatsoever. They seemed to hang around together more out of habit. Actually it's a little odd. Lee and Josie pretend they have nothing in common. They're a little indifferent towards one another. Sera who actually seems more like a enemy than a mate and spends a whole lot of time insulting our MC. And Anna' the nice one in the group. The one everyone takes the piss out of.

The pops. I found how he gave her the whole, idontwanttoknowyou thing kind of cold. Of course I'm not delusional, I know it happens. I just found it odd how they went to not really caring much for one another to the 2nd-3rd meeting to being all 'omgyou'rekindofawesome' a little baffling. I felt like there was this whole chunk missing which I missed out on. I don't think Josie meeting her father for the first time was really explored as well as it should have been.

Let's talk love interests. I wasn't swooning this time. I have to admit. A bit of a shame because Marchetta knows how to write her boys. I don't think I was rooting for either of the boys. Neither did much for me. Jacob, in fact, was pretty much a prick. And I'm trying to be kind here. Pressuring her into sex, yeah, I don't think you're a very nice guy, and the ending, yup, pretty much just confirmed your douche status. John, oh John. He's obviously a very depressed guy who is dealing with a lot of expectations. I really felt for him, although a certain part didn't hit me as hard as it should have.

The book was fast paced and pretty readable, but darn it I had top notch expectations. I thought it would be a lot more well written. And heck, I wanted my eyes to water at that horrible moment and I wanted to like our MC more. And call me spoilt but I wanted to swoon over both boys, and I wanted the other to have more of a shot with our girl. He had this small history but it served no purpose since it was clear from day one that he didn't stand a chance with her. Not to mention Josie claiming to be in love after like the first date was a major turn off. Not to mention she had the tendency to be very dramatic. Annoyingly dramatic.

I know I should keep in mind that it was Marchetta' debut, but, but, but still!! I expected more. I kind of hoped for a lot more. Keep in mind that I liked it, I did. I just know that it had a lot more potential.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,022 followers
July 28, 2021
Trigger warnings: suicide, depression, some seriously controlling bullshit in romantic relationships, discrimination against ethnic minorities, emotionally abusive relationship (in the past).

I stand by everything I said five years ago.

Last time I read this, I was kind of meh about it. Gave it three stars, despite all the love I'd had for it as a teenager. But five years on, I think for me this has reached classic status. It's definitely dated. There are some pretty misogynistic attitudes. The mental health side of things is...not particularly well handled? But I just love this story so much. I love Josie so much. I love her family so much. It's freaking wonderful.

I LOVED this book as a teenager. Read it constantly. So after recommending it as part of a list of Australian fiction, I figured it was time to dig it out and reread it.

Unsurprisingly, it's pretty dated now. There are no computers or mobile phones, and there are mentions of flying Ansett and Australian. But it's still an enjoyable read about a teenage girl dealing with her last year of high school, falling in love, her father coming into her life, and the discovery that her mother and grandmother are human and make mistakes.

And reading the part where still had the ability to make me cry.
589 reviews1,029 followers
April 12, 2014
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

I have nothing new to say about Looking for Alibrandi; my review is just going to be an echo of everyone else’s thoughts. I don’t know why I took such a prolonged time to start reading Melina Marchetta novels, but I certainly regret that I didn’t start sooner. In fact, I probably should have listened to my mum when she recommended it to me last year--it was the first book she ever read in English when she first came to Australia. She is still in love with it today. And I know I am too.

Josephine Alibrandi is unmistakably real. I feel like I could walk on the street and find the same person just wearing a different face and holding a different name. She feels genuine in the sense that she acts like a total teenager. She's got sass, she's dramatic, she's completely and utterly flawed. I love how she speaks her mind out to the world, she's always with buckets of emotions tumbling inside her and is always trying to be tough in every situation. An absolutely fantastic and unforgettable character.

Looking for Alibrandi is a coming of age novel. For all her life, Josie's never met her father. He left before Josie was even born. So when he--Michael Andretti shows up, Josie's feelings towards him are rather conflicted. Along with that, Josie has begun to grow feelings towards Jacob Coote, someone who her Nonna would definitely not approve of with her olden world beliefs. There was romance, friendship and family dynamics but there were also themes such as race, identity, loss and new beginnings. With all that, not at one point in this novel did it feel cramped. It gave us reality, and how it's not always that pretty.

I think the best aspect of Looking for Alibrandi was the relationships. The romance between Jacob and Josie was realistic--they messed up a lot here and there but they were good for each other, even on the bad days. I also loved the father-daughter dynamic. There was clear resentfulness at the start, both didn't want anything to do with each other but they grew close after time, figuring out their similarities. Josie and her father's relationship put a smile to my face.

At the end of the day, review after review, you won’t know how brilliantly crafted Looking for Alibrandi unless you read it yourself. So do yourself a favour and go pick up a copy. An Aussie classic.

~Thank you Penguin Australia for sending me this copy!~

Profile Image for Caitlin.
339 reviews698 followers
December 12, 2016
0.5/5 stars

I read this story back in high school and it is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. No I didn't hate it purely because I was made to in high school, I actually enjoyed a lot of novels we had to read. This book was meant to discuss Australian identity and handle really big issue when really is just focused on Josephine being a bitch. * this is more of a rant*

Josephine Alibrandi is the most obnoxious character I have ever met. She's truly just a horrible person who thinks everything is a personal attack against her. Her parents are divorced. Poor her. Her boyfriend is loving but doesn't get to spend every second with her. Poor her. Her best friend killed himself and all she can think about is how mean they are for doing that because now they can't secretly fall in love. Poor her right?!

The only enjoyable character was John and it really hurt me when he committed suicide because he made the book a lot better. I enjoyed how it was written so we didn't know what had happened but the hints were all there. They caught up after school and he was saying how stressed he was but Josie couldn't think about anything but herself! The warning signs were there! If you stopped being so selfish and actually thought about other people for once perhaps he wouldn't have committed suicide.

The plot was dull, the writing style wasn't my taste and I'm glad I never have to read it again.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,127 reviews2,172 followers
July 14, 2012
I think it would be an understatement to say I loved this book. Although Looking for Alibrandi is by no means my favorite Marchetta novel, it's definitely tied with The Piper's Son for third. (In case you were wondering, Saving Francesca is my favorite followed closely by Jellicoe Road. ) In many ways, I feel as if Looking for Alibrandi is Marchetta's most personal novel - I felt as if I could feel parts of her within it. Although authors pour a part of their soul into every work of fiction they write, Looking for Alibrandi seemed to hit closer to home as it explored issues of race, politics, and acceptance in such a powerful, truthful, and empathetic way. I am constantly surprised by Marchetta's writing style and ability as she manages to rise above even my highest expectations of her. I have never been let down by her work and her debut, Looking for Alibrandi, is no different.

It is Josephine Alibrandi's final year of high school and her life is about to change. For one, Michael Andretti, the father who never acknowledged her these past seventeen years, reappears in her life, complicating her feelings towards him. Furthermore, Josephine's grandmother makes Jose's life all the more confusing by throwing her in between old-world values and new-world customs. To add to the mess her life is steadily becoming, she seems to be developing feelings for Jacob Coote and regarding long-time crush John Barton as merely a friend. Josephine's last year in high school is filled with ups and down, mistakes and triumphs, and a creeping understanding of what it means to live in the era she lives, the area she lives, and the life she leads.

I love that each and every one of Marchetta's protagonists is different, yet, there is something so achingly familiar about all them which makes them so easy to relate to, empathize with, and love. Josephine Alibrandi is no different. Josephine's voice is unique, witty, and so much fun to read, but it is also deep, thoughtful, and provocative. As Josephine struggles to find a mean between her relationship with her father, her blooming romance with Jacob, and come to an understanding between the two most influential women in her life - her mother and her grandmother - her narration sucks you into her world and keeps you there. Unlike most other protagonists, I found that Josephine's struggles in life transcended that within her home life - they also included tiffs with her friends, teachers, growing up, and responsibility. Every single one of the secondary characters played such an important role in Jose's life and I loved seeing their impact on her growth. Josephine's development through the novel is slow, but it is sure, steadfast, and improving. Josephine is by no means perfect, but hers is a story that everyone, everywhere, can understand and appreciate and I admired how it went beyond the contemporary novels of the norm, tackling issues such as illegitimacy, racial discrimination, and suicide.

Yet, what surprised me the most about this book, was the tale neatly interwoven between it. It may not seem like it, but Looking for Alibrandi is a novel about three generations of Italian women who come to Australia, make mistakes, and repent and learn from them in the changing times. I admired the manner in which Marchetta wrote the complex dynamics between Josephine's mother, her grandmother, and herself. I've grown to regard all three of these women as inspirations for standing tall when the world shunned them, for rising above their status, and for exhibiting a strength usually uncalled for in their time. I cannot be any clearer without giving away precious spoilers for this tale, but this unexpected bond that I found between the pages of this book tore at my heart and soul and I found myself aching for everything these three had faced.

Another thing that surprised me about this book was the romance. In all honesty, I didn't think any fictional character could rival Jonah Griggs, but apparently I was wrong. I cannot choose between Jonah and Jacob Coote, but I love both of them. Jacob and Jose's relationship gets off to a rocky start, but I love the realistic quality it carries throughout the novel. Furthermore, I love the fact that Jacob and Jose bring out the best in each other, that they inspire each other to be better, and that they complement each other so perfectly. Although they both have quick tempers, their arguments are adorable and their make-ups even cuter. Plus, I love Jacob himself - his carefree attitude, his passion for cars, the way he doesn't let what others say affect him and most of all, the way he puts up with Jose on her bad days but argues with her when push comes to shove and solves their problems in a reasonable way. Jacob and Jose's relationship is one of my favorite out of all the Marchetta books and I know I'll find myself re-reading this novel just for them.

Speaking of relationships, I absolutely adored Josephine's relationship with her father. It made me laugh on more than one occasion and seeing them gradually become closer to one another, understand each other, and care for one another was heart-warming and sweet. Furthermore, I loved that more than simply a story about Josephine, Looking for Alibrandi was in equal parts a story about her father coming to terms with his past, her mother understanding her daughter, her grandmother understanding the consequences of her actions, a family understanding each other, friends staying true to one another, and first loves lasting forever. While Marchetta's other contemporary novels are all tear-jerkers, Looking for Alibrandi was a more bittersweet type of tale, filled in equal parts with happiness and sorrow. I admired its ending most of all for its honesty as not everything quite works out in life. Looking back, I am still astounded that this was Marchetta's debut novel - it is hands down one of the best debuts I've read and it is inspiring to know that Marchetta's exemplary writing skills could be seen even from the very beginning.

Melina Marchetta is one of those few authors who constantly transcends the boundaries of literature during today's day and age and Looking for Alibrandi is a coming of age story that does just that - transcends. It is a novel about race - about immigrating to a new country and struggling to acclimate with their ways of living while holding true to your own customs and beliefs. It is a novel about strength - about standing up for what you believe in and not allowing others' opinions to influence you. It is a novel about forgiveness - about forgiving past mistakes and moving on. It is a novel about growing up - about making mistakes and learning from them. It is a novel about understanding - about understanding what it means to be an adult, a father, a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a friend. It is a novel about love - about its everlasting warmth. It is, in my opinion, a masterpiece.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for lisa.
2,082 reviews302 followers
January 13, 2023
Reread: January 2023

I received the 30th edition Alibrandi in the mail today thanks to my great OzYA book smuggler, Rachel, and obviously I need to reread. I mean, I didn't reread any Marchetta in 2022 - that's...what even...I don't know who that girl was.

Anyway, this reread hits differently for I realise that I'm closer in age to Christina Alibrandi (she turned 35 in this novel, I'll be turning 33 this year) than I am to Josie, wow. I can't help but to focus on the adults more this time around too. Ugh my heart still breaks for Katia.

Reread: April 2021

"I've been passionate about two things in my life. One was Christina Alibrandi. The other is Josephine Alibrandi."

Reread: April 2018

If you have been following me on Twitter and Instagram then you'd know that I recently went to Sydney and found old covers of Alibrandi (and bought them, obvs).

Reread this one on the plane home and the setting totally came to life for me now that I know how Sydney looked like.


Reread: Jan 2018

[Frankie Spinelli voice] Oh my God I'm so devastated-

My Twitter reading thread: HERE.

Reread: June 2016

I skim Marchetta all the time but this is my first proper Alibrandi reread in a while and I'm still in love with the story, with Josie and the Alibrandis, with Michael Andretti, with John Barton and Jacob Coote. I think I gained a little more love for Jacob this time around.

Reread: Feb 2014

Read this again. Still fabulous.

First read: April 2013

CW/TW: Suicide, racism

Melina Marchetta is one of the authors whose grocery shopping lists I would be glad to read and devour.

I jumped into Alibrandi without knowing what to expect. Like Saving Francesca, Alibrandi looks like one story but turns out to be so much more. What I get from this book is a story about an Italian-Australian girl who struggles to find her footing in the world all the while dealing with her conservative Italian culture and the consequences of being an illegitimate child.

Josephine, to me, is a strong girl who is not afraid to have and voice out her opinions. I love her relationship with her mother despite all the fighting. I love how she slowly learns to embrace her Italian roots and accepting that she's different, and how she experiences love.

One of my favorite quotes:

I'm beginning to realize that things don't turn out the way you want them to. And sometimes, when they don't, they can turn out just a little bit better.

Overall, Alibrandi is a great book about self-acceptance. READ THIS BOOK, PEOPLE.

p.s After reading Chapter 28, I suddenly saw a scene in my head, from a movie or TV or something, I swear it's so familiar. Then I found out that this book is made into a movie. Could it be that I've already seen it without knowing that it was Alibrandi? Hmm. Must find out.

Profile Image for Maya.
260 reviews85 followers
June 5, 2019
I was scared that I waited too long to read Marchetta’s other works, but as it turns out I still enjoy YA books, if they are well written. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, because this is a debut novel, with some unpolished parts, but for me it’s still way better than ~80% of what YA has to offer.

There are already plenty of great, detailed reviews, so I’ll keep mine brief. Looking for Alibrandi is a girl’s coming-of-age story. It’s about all the typical themes of teenage years: friendship, first love, first heartbreak, family conflicts, finding your place in the world. In this regard, the novel is "nothing special". However, instead of annoyed at forced drama and silly misunderstandings, it managed to make me nostalgic and sympathetic towards the characters, who all have different sides to them. There are some very touching relationships between daughter-mother-grandmother and daughter-father. Josephine’s narration is very(!) funny and so are the dialogues. Marchetta’s humor really works for me. This is also a book about migration, as Josephine is a 3rd generation immigrant and struggles with her cultural identity.

Marchetta has a way with words, sensitive yet to the point. I could quote half the novel, because it had so many funny or beautiful phrases, but I’ll just stick to a few at the end. The author also manages to strike a balance avoiding one-sidedness in her characters as well as on the social issues she addresses. The rich kids are shown to have problems of their own, the mean girl is not a mindless bully without any depth, the runaway dad is not just an irresponsible good-for-nothing and allowed to make up for his earlier absence.

On migration, Marchetta makes her 17-year-old protagonist utter some very direct statements. There is criticism of the locals, who ostracize the newcomers, but there is also criticism of immigrants who don’t make enough of an effort to assimilate. Given how polarizing the topic has become, I wonder if she would write this book the same way today.

Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1993, so it can almost be called a classic. It’s definitely contemporary YA at its best. If you like YA, you have to read Melina Marchetta.


To finish, just a handful of quotes:
On how it feels to lose your mother:
“You don't die. You just... get really angry and then after you're angry, you hurt a lot and then the best thing is that one day you remember something she said or did and you laugh instead of crying.”

On virginity:
“What is it? A prize or something?” – “No. It's not a prize and I'm not a prize. But it's mine. It belongs to me and I can only give it away once, and I want to be so sure when it happens. I don't want to say that the first time for me was bad or it didn't mean a thing.”

On migration:
“A different Australia emerged in the 1950s. A multicultural one, and 30 years on we're still trying to fit in as ethnics and we're still trying to fit the ethnics in as Australians. (..) I think my family has come a long way. The sad thing is that so many haven't. So many have stayed in their own little world. Some because they don't want to leave it, others because the world around them won't let them in.”

“The Australians knew nuting about us. We were ignorant. They were ignorant. Jozzie, you wonder why some people my age cannot speak English well. It is because nobody would talk to them, and worse still, they did not want to talk to anyone. We lived in our own little world, and as more relatives and friends from the same town came out to Australia, the bigger our Italian community became, to the point where we didn’t need to make friends with the Australians.”
Profile Image for Elaine.
360 reviews
September 7, 2015
In spite of my reservations I actually really enjoyed reading this book, although I couldn't help feeling that I probably should have read it in my teens. Except that it wasn't written when I was a teenager!!!! I loved Josephine and I enjoyed her spunk and thought she was very funny and clever. I also enjoyed seeing her relationship with both her Nonna and her father evolve. Although initially I thought that this might just be a teen book I realised that it was so much more with very serious themes as well as quite a bit of humour. I felt more like a parent to be honest, secretly reading her child's diary but it was well worth a read and I'm glad I finally got to it. I've actually reserved the movie now just to see the story played out so that probably says something about the lasting effect of the book. I can only give it 3 stars here but for me it was a 3.5 star read.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
May 12, 2020
“I’ll run one day. Run for my life. To be free and think for myself. Not as an Australian and not as an Italian and not as an in-between. I’ll run to be emancipated. If my society will let me.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
I honestly think the world will stop turning the day I read a MM book I do not like.

High Points.
Strong females. Josie. Nuns. Religion. Family. The past. Jacob. The future. FBA. Identity. Culture. Fast food first jobs. Stories. Catching me off guard with the sadness (which I did NOT appreciate). Friendships. Speeches. Politics. Motorbike helmets. Boys with eyes that are just green. Smuggling biscuits. Dances.

Low Point.
I really wanted to find out more about Josie and her father’s relationship and how it developed. I know this book was more about the females in Josie’s life but I really loved their relationship and I believe I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if there had just been a few more prickly road trip scenes thrown in.

I got shouted at because I get referring to Josephine as Jo (it’s just easier, OK? Why else would I call her Jo? Eh? No reason.) so I’m going to make the effort to call her Josie. Begrudgingly.
I really loved Josie and what I loved most about her was that she was so different to MM’s usual heroines. Now, it’s no secret that Taylor, Francesca and Evanjalin are probably my favourite YA heroines ever, so that is not to say that I liked Josie more than them.
Normally Ms Marchetta’s heroines are reserved and observant and in control and almost wary of their emotions. But then we get Josie, who is loud and ballsy and wears her heart on her sleeve and puts it all out there.
Josie is so breathless and exhaustive and sometimes she can be annoying and petulant and rude to her mother and dismissive to her grandmother and she’s so so defensive and argumentative towards Jacob that I often wanted to just grab her and tell her to calm down and stop being a little madam.
But she was also hilarious, fearless, normal, inquisitive and, my favourite thing about her, she never backed down. She fought what she believed in and she made no apologies for it.
I saw a lot of myself in Jo…sie. She doesn’t think before she says things. She thinks that shoving everything into a cupboard is cleaning up. (If the door closes, it is fine) She would rather drown in her own sweat than be eaten get annoyed by an insect that could physically carry you off into the night get in through an open window. She gets angry when people steal all the good biscuits (Why would they do that?!). She thinks that pineapple on pizza is immoral (I’m a combination of Canadian, Welsh, Reddish-y and Dukinfield-y and even I think pineapple on a pizza is sacrilege)
Oh and I was also determined to win every game of Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs.
Yeah, I was that girl.
Man, Agadoo provided the soundtrack to the more tense moments of my childhood.

MM sure knows how to deal with dysfunctional families, huh? I just love them. From the Markhams to the Spinellis and, of course, the Mackees… they are all just so messed-up and real and full of depth. I don’t want to divulge too much but… yeah, the Alibrandi familial relationships are no exception.

Love Interest.
Dear Jacob Coote,
Lose the girl hair and we’ll talk.
Kind regards,
ps. You can keep the bike. And the ability to dance to Elton John without a hint of irony. (I assume it’s without irony. If it wasn't, forget it. It would never work between us.)

Theme Tune.
Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House.
Shhh…. Crowded House has Australian members too.

There's a battle ahead,
Many battles are lost,
But you'll never see the end of the road
while you're travelling with me

I like to think of this song as a love song to the Josie, her mother and her grandmother. That was my favourite aspect of this book and it was sososo perfectly depicted.
Also, in relation to Mr Coote.
“Promise me you’ll never stop dreaming.”

I promise, Jacob.
I mean… uh…
Josie promises.
*shifty look*

Strictly Savage Garden Story Song.

Due to the fact it would be a travesty of the highest order if this song did not feature in at least one of my reviews, I dedicate this song not just to this book but to all of Ms Marchetta’s books.

Because, guys… I have no more to read until Froi comes out, which isn’t for a like a gabillionjillion years in the UK.
*gnaws on hand*
So, I feel like I need to take a moment to pay homage to them all until we are reunited… take it away Darren.

Truly Madly Deepy by Savage Garden.
It takes a real man to look good in sepia.

Boy Angst.
9/10. Holy moly, never mind Josie, her and Jacob’s relationship nearly gave me a heart attack. Seriously. Every scene made me feel like I’d ran a marathon and then got on a rollercoaster and then demolished a crate of Red Bull. Or that cheap stuff you get in Tescos which is ten times worse.
It was so....raaaargh.
Yes. Exactly like that.
(And some people say I’m not articulate. Pfft. )
But it was also full of lip quivering moments and butterflies and some extremely tender moments which I just adored.
It was a very realistic portrayal of first love where emotions are running high and everything is amplified and it all feels like being on the back of a motorcycle driven by a boy of whom your mother wouldn’t approve.
And that ending? Perfezione. Thanks free online translation service!

Sadness Poignancy Scale.
7/10. I wouldn’t say this book was necessarily sad (except for ONE bit. Which reached into my chest and ripped out my heart) but there was a definite sense of poignancy with Josie and her relationship with the past and the future.
I don���t want to spoil anything, but this is such a rich book with one foot firmly placed in the past. Looking for Alibrandi is full of all these delicious little layers that are perfectly constructed and, as we delve into Josie’s family past, it becomes obvious that nothing is as it seems. Traditions and beliefs are questioned, identities are challenged and those seemingly insignificant decisions will continue to shape generations to come.
My favourite part of this story was reading about Josie’s grandmother and her experiences as an Italian in Australia all those years back. They were told with such warmth and passion, it often felt like I was sat in that little living room sweltering with no air conditioning listening to the Alibrandi’s stories.
Like I said, this book didn’t make me necessarily sad (except that ONE bit.) but it made me think and feel like I need to go round to my grandparent’s houses and listen to their stories because after all they’re my stories too.

Recommended For.

People who have ever felt they don’t fit in. People who think that the stories their grandparent’s tell them are the most interesting. People who would wag class to go and see a rock star. People who wish that fairy bread was common practice in the UK (which is the most random/inevitably delicious party snack ever! Good choice, John, good choice). People who wish every boy could play Blowin’ in the Wind on a recorder. People who think underwear is an effective contraception. People who don’t get the urge to cut off boy’s hair when they see it tied in a ponytail. People who will never stop dreaming.

Profile Image for Arlene.
1,164 reviews639 followers
March 6, 2011
Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

I only wish we could have been the best or the worst in the class. Not just somewhere in between… Purgatory... I hate it so much that when I die, and if God sends me there, I’ll beg him to send me to hell instead.

What can I say about Melina Marchetta that I haven’t said before? I love her character driven novels, I wish I could meet each and everyone one of them, and if I could define novel honesty fused with passion, I’d stamp a Marchetta book cover as an example. She’s brilliant, she’s literary perfection and she’s at the top of my list of favorite authors of all time.

Well after that little soliloquy it’s probably no surprise that Looking for Alibrandi did not disappoint one bit. This little gem of a book had all of the elements that I love to experience when reading Marchetta’s novels. It starts off in undefined territory where I’m not quite sure what’s going on or where Marchetta intends to lead me, but by the time I’m done with the story, I don’t want to turn the final pages and I wish I could have just a little more time with the characters that crept into my heart and took a post.

Josie Alibrandi is everything I love in a MC. She’s full of passion, spark, flaws, honesty and hope. This book is comprised of heavy themes such as culturalism, teenage struggle, sexual pressures, faith, and finding oneself in the midst of an ongoing storm. The relationship Josie has with her mother, nonna, father and friends tugged at my heart and pulled my emotions in many different directions.

There were a couple of events I predicted, but that didn’t’ stop me from feeling the hurt and pain that Josie experienced when these truths unfolded. I loved how Josie and her father’s relationship developed at a slow but steady pace and by the end of the novel, he was one of my fave characters. I was bummed about Jacob Coote, but not left without hope. Josie really showed tremendous growth from the beginning to the end of the story.

If you’re a fan of Marchetta, I highly suggest you give Looking for Alibrandi a try. It’s sure not to disappoint.

Favorite quotes
…She asked me on Friday what type of contraception I use. “Underwear,” I said. “Keeping it on prevents pregnancy.”

Face it, the age of innocence is gone. We abused the act of sex now God’s sitting back and having the laugh of his life.

Please, God, let me be accepted by someone other than the underdog.

Thank you to Nomes for challenging me to read this sooner than later. I loved it!!
Profile Image for Siiri (Little Pieces of Imagination).
538 reviews108 followers
July 26, 2016
26 sticky notes, countles teary moments and quite a few laughs later I can say that even Marchetta's debut is brilliant and magical just as her work published after Alibrandi. This book highlights perfectly, with an authentic voice, how it feels to be an immigrant. There are so many notions and remarks about politics, cultural differences, general truths of life and more that fit well to describe life now when after almost a quarter of a century has passed.


I'd recommend Looking for Alibrandi for everyone who has had to deal with immigration, since they would most definitely relate to Josie's story, as well as anyone who would want to learn more about the emotional turmoil and struggles of it all; of what it means to be a part of traditions and deep-rooted culture that still hums in your blood and soul, and what it means to be confused about your place and yourself when you feel like you don't belong.

Beautifully, thoughtfully crafted, as always, Marchetta's ability to write the voice of a teenager in the search of oneself as well as showcasing complex, layered family dynamics and other types of relationships, this is yet another winner that's not to be missed!
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,092 followers
February 10, 2011
I think if I had read Looking for Alibrandi first, I would have given it five stars. Of course, then Goodreads would have had to come up with an additional star rating for her other books! Melina Marchetta works her trademark magic in her very first book, holding onto you until the very last page. Looking for Alibrandi has all the components of an amazing young adult book - emotionally gripping, introspective and witty. But somehow, it lacks the punch her later books have. It doesn't grab you by the throat and squeeze until you feel you're choking on emotion. Don't get me wrong, this is a powerful book with a strong message. But it's more mainstream than Saving Francesca or Jellicoe Road.

Josephine is a great heroine. The cultural divide that so conflicts her speaks to a large part of my life experience. I fell a little bit in love with her budding relationship with her father, it was drawn so very beautifully. I love the fact that Josephine was a little bit spoiled, a lot bit mouthy and so dramatically a teenager. It wasn't so long ago that I was a teenager myself, so I can connect to the feeling that your pain is the world's pain, your cross is the heaviest cross to bear, even if that is as far from the truth as one could possibly get.

What really made the book come alive for me was the last few pages. Josephine's epiphany about her journey of growth was written so beautifully, each word resonated in my heart. I would have given this book a dozen accolades for those pages alone.

I know that romance is never a central angle in a Marchetta book, but I still felt disappointed by Josephine and Jacob's relationship. I liked them quite a bit, so I would have appreciated the book a lot more if it had fleshed their relationship out more.

All said, for a debut novel, this is almost unsurpassed. I do wish I had read this book first, so that it didn't feel so regressive. For all future readers of Marchetta, I would strongly advise starting with Alibrandi, and then moving on to her later books.
Profile Image for Fakhrisina Amalia.
Author 14 books194 followers
October 8, 2018
Nggak usah bikin ulasan, ya. Cuma mau bilang kalau setelah baca Saving Fransesca dan Looking for Alibrandi aku jadi ingin menulis lebih bagus lagi :"
Profile Image for Swankivy.
1,178 reviews133 followers
August 30, 2008
All through the reading of this book, I felt like the author hadn't been able to decide quite what she was writing; is this a teen's journal or is it a first-person narration book? Every chapter seemed to address some subject of the main character's life, and mostly they seemed really disconnected. I didn't think the writing was smooth at all, though it wasn't because it was trying to imitate a teen's voice. I liked some of the concepts, but overall it just seemed like there was a pattern of "stuff happens to Josie, Josie reacts, later Josie has a thought about it that might or might not relate to other crap in her life." There was a lot of inconsistency with regards to style--for instance, the Italian grandmother who doesn't speak smooth English sometimes has her accent highlighted with alternate spelling and sometimes it's just dropped and written normally. It just seemed so random sometimes, and there were very unlikely events in it (like the main character breaking a classmate's nose for calling her a "wog," even though she'd never had any predisposition for violence before or since). The relationships seemed forced and unresolved and just very . . . very much like the book was a collection of thoughts on a first-draft level. When I looked deep I could feel the issues Josie had, and the most interesting thing about it for me was the way it highlighted the experience an Italian-Australian has in Australian society, but overall I found it difficult to get into.
Profile Image for Milly.
637 reviews23 followers
August 25, 2011
**Audible Review**
Aussie Reading Challenge #5

I was initially hesitant to read Looking for Alibrandi in the audible version because I was fearful I would miss all of Merlina Marchetta’s noteworthy and notable quotes. I’ve read 3 of her books and there were definitely several quotable lines in each one so I was sure this was no different. But, it was there staring at me at the library’s book shelf waiting for me to take it home. How could anyone resist Marchetta, right? Well, thankfully I did because I loved every minute of this audible. The chosen narrator, Rebecca Macauley did such a superb job reading this book. She effortlessly changed voices from a young 17-year old Josie, to a 34-year old Christine, and to a heavily accented Grandma Nonna. She successfully brought each of these characters to life including the male characters distinctly and clearly, that not once did I have to rewind to keep track of who’s who. It was quite fun listening to Rebecca portray Josie and quite impressive to be able to sound both young and old. Also, I find the English accent lovely to listen to. There’s something about it that keeps me hooked on for hours on.

Surprisingly enough, Looking for Alibrandi is my favorite of the 4 books I’ve read of Melina’s so far. And to think, I almost passed over this book due to the book reviews here on GR that considered it mediocre when comparing it to the more recent books by MM such as The Piper's Son and Saving Francesca. Not for me though. This book and Josie, the main voice of this book, resonated with me the most that reading it became a very personal experience for me. Reading it was nostalgic, bringing back memories of my high school years in the Philippines at a Catholic school and the last leg of it at a public school here in the United States. Several of her experiences mirrored mine that reading it was at times unsettling and disarming at the same time. Needless to say, this book made me shed tears.

Looking for Alibrandi is about so many things. It’s a coming-of-age book and about self-discovery for Josie, the 17-year old female protagonist of this book. It is also about a collection of interesting and gripping subplots such as about teen suicide, family dynamics especially from a single parent household and conservative Catholic families of Italian descent, racial discrimination between Australian Anglos and Australian immigrants and their descendants, and relationships between parent and child, and peer pressure in high school or secondary school as they say in Australia. I was impressed by how Melina Marchetta was able to incorporate and juxtapose the lives of 3 different Alibrandis so effortlessly: 17-year old Josie, 34-year old Christine and Josie’s Mom, and her Nonna or Grandma. These women lived such different lives and different generations but one thing’s for sure, they were all strong women. I still get teary eyed thinking about the hardships that both Josie’s mother and grandmother went through to raise their daughters. My eyes get misty as well when I think about the fights Josie and her mother have and their bittersweet make-ups especially when Josie finally realizes all the sacrifices her mother made for her. Equally, my eyes definitely shed tears when Josie and her father whom she hasn’t seen in 17 years finally come to terms with their daughter-father relationship and open their hearts and soul to welcome each other into their lives. I don’t know what it is but I have a very soft spot for topics of acceptance, particularly the parent accepting their child ‘just as they are’, no more, no less, but as is, with all their imperfections. It’s funny how we always strive to please our parents no matter how in denial we are of ever caring of what they think of us.

"I would rather die than ever see you suffering this way. I don't want you or any child I ever have or any woman I ever love to go through or feel what you're going through, but it's happened and I don't know what to do."

Josie is such an interesting specimen. She is opinionated, funny, obnoxious, and flawed. I love that her character is an intelligent girl, one of the smartest in school but yet is still ‘cool’ and well liked by her peers. It’s always nice to find such character in young-adult contemporary fiction especially nowadays when most female protagonists tend to be written as ‘pretty and popular’ in school, popular for reasons of how they look and who they know rather than more substantial characteristics such as compassionate or intelligent. Though not unattractive, her physical attributes are not what caught John Barton and Jacob Coote’s attention. Rather, it’s her wit and her character that did. It makes me admire her character even more.

There were so many things about this book that brought me to tears and gave me hiccups from too much laughing, and thoughtful from reminiscing similar experiences by Josie and by John. Although John was not the MC, he definitely touched me in so many ways. I knew his desperation, the feeling of being powerless over one’s destiny, and the feeling of never being good enough for one’s parents. I knew how Josie felt being constantly judged by relatives and being bound by stringent cultural and religious expectations and I commend her for being able to withstand the pressures of teenage sex. I also know how it feels to be discriminated based on the color of your hair and eyes, your heritage, of what part of town you live in, and who your parents are. My heart went out to her and admired her strength and courage to overcome all of these prejudices and tolerate nosy relatives and judgmental peers. At the end of the book, I felt so proud of Josie and how far she’s gone. It was such a delight watching her grow up and mature. This was definitely a book driven by its characters and what a ride it was.

"If I could be anything other than what I am, I'd want a tomorrow. If I could be what my father wants me to be, maybe I could stay for that too. If I could be what you want me to be, then I'd want to stay. But I am what I am and all I want is freedom."

As for her love interests and relationships, I thought it was so cute of Josie to moon over John Barton, her very first crush, and swooned when he finally paid her attention and told her that he’s always seen her. But more swoon-worthy moments were her times with the hottie and bad boy Jacob Coote. There were also lots of hilarious moments between these two because they are such polar opposites. But Jacob is definitely quite the character! I admired his confidence, his open-mindedness, and his courage to make something better of himself. I admired how patient he was with Josie and amazed on how he could put up with her big and judgmental mouth. Though not exactly the happy ending one wishes for the protagonist in the book, it nevertheless is realistic and hopeful, and I’m surprised to say I liked how it ended. I think Melina Marchetta could easily write a sequel! I would love to read more about Josie Alibrandi, that’s for sure!

"To have someone hold you could be the greatest medicine of all."

I just love, love this book! Melina Marchetta never ceases to amaze me. On the Jellicoe Road is next!
Profile Image for Sarah.
281 reviews55 followers
September 30, 2015
’’There’s no denying that Melina Marchetta is a literary goddess, but Looking for Alibrandi just isn’t that good.
- Every Marchetta fan who read her debut novel after being blown away by her other book(s).
This book was nowhere near as amazing as the author's other works, but I didn't expect it to be either. Marchetta's writing and characterization has gotten a lot better over the years, and gone from average to stunning.

Family relationships: B
I really liked the relationships in the Alibrandi family, especially the one between Josie and her mother.
The women in Josephine's life are all stubborn, outspoken and confident. There's tough love, many fights and misunderstanding between them. But at the end of the day, the family dynamics are great and make the characters likable.

Romance: E-
I severely disliked the romance in this book. All the couple did was fight, and they often seemed to hate each other. Yet the second Josie was away from Jacob, he was the most important person in her life!
Too much angst and not enough communication.

Dickhead love interest: F
My least part of the book was Jacob Coote, who I wanted to throw a sandwich at.
Jacob Coote is a despicable love interest, with serious mood swings. He barely has any personality, treats Josie like a dirtbag and then comes begging for her forgiveness. To be fair, Josephine is awful toward him, too, but at least she was a well-rounded characters and had her understandable reasons.
Jacob was nothing but annoying and dumb.
'Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're up then you're down

He blames her for everything, tries to push her into sex and knows just what to say to hurt her.
You know something? I had no hassles in my life before I met you. Now everywhere I turn I face brick wall. I’m always giving you time. I can’t sleep with you because you need time. I can’t meet your grandmother because you need time. What the fuck are you waiting for?’'

I hereby declare Jacob Coote a prick.

Despite all that, their relationship was surprisingly realistic, albeit irritating. It was first love, and it was silly and frustrating and naive. Then again, I bet we all have or will be with a person who is a complete asshole, but we are too blind to see it in the moment. I think when you first fall in love, you're not falling for the person, but the idea of being in love.
Allow me to sneak in a quote from my recent read - Black Heart - that I think applies to this book:
“When we fall that first time, we’re not really in love with the girl. We’re in love with being in love. We’ve got no idea what she’s really about—or what she’s capable of. We’re in love with our idea of her and of who we become around her. We’re idiots.”

So, bonus points to Marchetta for adding a realistic, yet very flawed romance.
I just wish Jacob had been less one-dimensional and not tried to gain sympathy from the reader way too late in the book. He was just there so the MC could learn a lesson.

Writing and plot: D
It’s rather messy, the plot. It bounces between family relations, boy crushes and finding yourself. It was difficult to stay interested in either of those things.

Nationality and belonging is a big part of Looking for Alibrandi. Josephine is Italian, and has lived in Australia her whole life. Her classmates sometimes tease her for not being like them, making her question who she really is.
I liked the take on this topic and wish that storyline had been more focused on than the romance.

Sadly, the writing is simple and nothing special. It read like any other forgettable contemporary, to my great disappointment.

Final verdict:
You can tell that this book is published a decade before Saving Francesca (the fantastic novel that I constantly rave about). I think Marchetta hadn’t discovered her strengths just yet - strong characterization with flawed individuals and quote-worthy writing, so they all feel underdeveloped. Put that next to the slow pacing and less than stellar characters, and you have an underwhelming, generic book.
Please try Saving Francesca or On the Jellicoe Road instead. The first is a whirlwind of emotions and focuses more on friendships rather than family issues. It's hard to describe the latter, but it is truly special and beautiful.
When going through Marchetta's work, this is like a snack in between meals - rather light and underwhelming. Just something to quickly pick up while you wait for the exquisite dinner you're about to have. Not necessary, unless you're really craving something from the literary goddess, who is much less goddess-like here.
If that's the case, prepare to have a bitter snack that's probably expired.
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