KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

KYDYAC

KYDYAC – Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

by Stephanie Van Schilt , August 10, 201210 Comments


As the KYD YA Championship continues, YA expert Agnes Nieuwenhuizen argues her case for the influential teen text with heart, Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi.

One highlight of the upcoming 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival will be author Melina Marchetta introducing the movie of her novel Looking for Alibrandi. Given the increasingly brief shelf life of books, it is remarkable that a debut novel published in 1992 and its 2000 movie version are still being read, watched and celebrated – but above all, loved.

The first print run of Alibrandi, all those years ago, sold out in two months. It has been published in sixteen countries and translated into a dozen languages. It won the 1993 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) award for Older Readers. Of course, the film-of-the-book has only added to the novel’s life and popularity. The film won five AFI awards, and Marchetta won a NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the IF award for Best Screenplay, plus the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award. However, it is the novel’s enduring appeal that is most remarkable.

That Melina Marchetta, at the time a 28-year-old teacher who had originally left school at 15, delighted so many readers with a first novel is a feat. Let’s not forget, though, that while many authors and books benefit from editorial advice and close editing, few would receive the three years of nurturing offered to Marchetta by the then publisher at Penguin, Julie Watts, and her skilled, attentive  – and patient – editor, Erica Wagner (now at Allen & Unwin). Clearly both saw Looking for Alibrandi’s great potential. How many Alibrandis might we now lose because of a lack of time or resources in today’s tough world of publishing?

So what is Looking for Alibrandi’s secret? ‘Melannie’, a US teenage reviewer, wrote: ‘It’s a breath of fresh air to read about important stuff and not only about the boy on the football team or the hot guy next door.’ At the heart of many successful YA works that absorb teenagers are characters they can identify with; notions of change and transformation; the realisation that authors seem to ‘know’ how readers think and feel, and know what matters to them (the ‘important stuff’). Great YA authors also always take their readers seriously and never patronise them.

Josephine Alibrandi is a sassy final-year student somewhat out of place at her privileged Catholic girls’ school. Her life has been unusual and she has much to grapple with. She observes in her usual wry, sharp tone: ‘It’s an embarrassing contradiction when your mother gets pregnant out of wedlock because her Catholic upbringing prohibits contraception.’ She is very aware of her outsider status, being illegitimate and brought up by a single mother. Outsiders are another hallmark of YA works; remember S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, another stayer?

Alibrandi is a school story, a love story, a story of reconnecting with family (Josie meets her father sixteen years on), a story of intense and fraught friendships – with one encompassing a tragedy. It was – and remains – significant for its vivid portrayal of living within and between Australian and Italian cultures. The book sweeps readers along because of this rich content, but above all because of its fine, vibrant, direct storytelling and Josephine’s strong, engaging voice. What more could we want?

Few books survive the carnage of classroom dissection. Few readers remember with affection (or at all) a book they have had to ‘study’ and chew over for weeks or even months. Yet many students emerge from this experience still loving Alibrandi (To Kill a Mockingbird also seems to survive the classroom – so it’s in good company!). They walk away from this book talking and arguing about the characters as if they really knew them. Even more amazing is that their mothers, and even their fathers and other adults, devour the book too, which is why Penguin cleverly republished it showing the same cover girl in more sombre colours. Now new generations embrace and share the book. If you haven’t read it – do!

Agnes Nieuwenhuizen is a noted champion of books and reading for teenagers. After many years as a teacher, she founded the Youth Literature Program which metamorphosed into the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria. Her last book, Right Book, Right Time (Allen & Unwin), contains over 500 lively recommendations for every taste and mood. Now officially retired, Agnes continues to review books for adults and teenagers and contribute to various publications.

If you want Looking for Alibrandi to win the KYD YA Championship, you can cast your vote for it here! Vote now and you can also go into the draw to win some amazing prizes.




  • http://seancondon.net Sean Condon

    It depresses the hell out of me that my YA book, Michael Sweeney’s Method, has utterly disappeared from the shelves and the cultural radar, despite being better than any other book of its genre published in the last decade or so. (If no-one else is gonna champion it – and clearly no-one is – I may as well step up myself.)

  • http://alphareader.blogspot.com/ Danielle Binks

    “How many ‘Alibrandis’ might we now lose because of a lack of time or resources in today’s tough world of publishing?” – 100% agree.

    I love this championing of one of my all-time favourite books by a beloved author. I remember ‘Alibrandi’ as being one of the very first transitional books I read, moving away from middle-grade books towards young adult. And I remember feeling a visceral connection to Josie – I too was attending a private all girl’s school, and was third-generation Australian with a matriarch a lot like Josie’s grandmother. And I remember loving that I found so much of myself in this book – it’s probably what set me off looking for more YA books, for a similar connections.

    • http://www.jordikerr.com Jordi

      Indeed, Danielle. Agnes hits on a very scary truth!

      Looking for Alibrandi always stuck with me for its beautiful touch in dealing with the timeless and turbulent emotions of being an outsider, in any sense of the word.
      What more could we want, indeed :)

  • http://pixielit.blogspot.com Julia T

    I first read LFA as an 11 year old – I sneakily borrowed it from the “Grade 6 only” shelf in the school library, even though I was only in Grade 5. Of course, much of it was over my head at that age…though I felt such a connection that when I re-read it multiple times as a teenager, I absolutely loved it. Even now, my guts clench (in a good way) just thinking about this novel!

  • http://www.1001booksimustread.wordpress.com Fay

    I think I’ve read LFA at least once a year since I was 14 (ten years worth now!) It’s moving, passionate, funny, poignant and perfectly captures what it’s like to be a teenager. It’s the young adult book I compare all others to.

  • http://misrule.com.au/wordpress Judith Ridge

    I date my career in children’s and YA books more or less to the publication of Alibrandi. (It technically predates it slightly, but emotionally, this is Year Zero for me.) I did one of my first author interviews with Melina—one of her first, too!—and it was published in the first edition of Viewpoint.

    I can still recall how excited I was to read Alibrandi—it was such a breath of fresh air—and we must never forget what a rare phenomena it has been in this country, with the speed and passion it was taken up by readers of all ages (a cross-over novel before there was such a thing) and the way its succes opened up the YA publishing industry for so many others.

    So while there may be better written books—including all of Melina’s subsequent work—there may never be a better loved Australian YA book. Onya, Josie—yu’re a top chick and it’s a top book.

  • Adele

    As I have often said, Looking for Alibrandi is the novel that officially sucked me into the Australian YA orbit and fostered a love of Australian voice.

    Melina is truly impressive as she is an author who continues to challenge herself within the YA form whether it be the various time lines of On the Jellicoe Road, the various perspectives in The Piper’s Son or even tackling fantasy. Regardless of what Melina writes, you know her characters will burrow themselves into your heart.

  • Pingback: Garn the Blues | Misrule

  • http://www.lisadempster.com.au lisa dempster

    I never had to read Alibrandi at school, as I read it when it first came out, before it was on the curriculum. I would have loved to though. I loved, loved, loved this book – a feeling lots of people obviously share. I went from kid’s books to grown up books and Alibrandi was one of first YA books I really read, opening up a new world, where the writing was just complex enough and the issues so, so real to me. I read this book so much and I loved its characters so deeply, I felt like I was a good friend of Josie’s, which is an amazing achievement for an author.

  • http://hot-girls-2013.tumblr.com/post/48660741993 Porn picslHot naked girls

    Fantastic overcome! I’m going to apprentice whilst you change your internet site, how to register for any weblog internet site? This bank account reduced the problem a new suitable option. I actually ended up small amount familiarised on this your current transmit given lively obvious thought

West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »

BuzzFeed

Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

nympho-poster

Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »

planes

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »

My Brilliant Career

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Groundhog Day again for women in film

It pisses me off no end! I literally have refused to talk about it because I feel like, you don’t ask Peter Weir or Phillip Noyce about being a male director. But now it’s time to speak out again…because I can’t believe the numbers! Gillian Armstrong, in 2010, … Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

wifi

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

IMG_3267

Clipped: What would Susan Sontag say about always-on cameras?

As I write this, a tiny camera clipped to my shirt collar is silently taking a picture every thirty seconds. At the end of the day, I will plug my Narrative Clip into my MacBook, and it will upload half a gigabyte of images to the Cloud. … Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »

The Fault with a Sick-Lit Debate (1)

Danielle Binks

The fault with a sick-lit debate

American author John Green’s young adult (YA) novel The Fault in Our Stars has been a bestselling juggernaut since its release in 2012. Green’s book was somewhat inspired by his friendship with Esther Earl, whose posthumous memoir This Star Won’t Go Out was released in January this … Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »

Grandma photoshop

Chad Parkhill

Singing out

My maternal grandmother, Merilai Lilburn, recently died in a nursing home in Katikati, New Zealand, of complications arising from pneumonia. She was 82 years old. At the time of her death, I and the other members of our extended family based in Australia Read more »

Community

Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »