Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for the ARC!
Anyone who has heard me talk about books (so basically everyone who has ever met me), knows that I am not a huge contemporary fan. Why would I want to read about real life? I already have one of those. Every so often, however, I read a YA contemporary novel that makes me eat my words - and Frankie is one of them. Maybe because it's an Australian novel and I could actually relate to the characters; maybe just because Plozza writes really well.
One of my major problems with the contemporary genre is that it seems to exist in a frustrating dichotomy - its stories are either fluffy or preachy. Frankie is a novel that strikes the perfect balance between these two. It posed a lot of questions about our society - why are the rich, white kids the only ones who seem to matter? Why do people commit crimes, anyway? These are important issues that need to be addressed, but nobody wants to hear a sermon. Characters like Frankie demonstrate the truth of low socio-economic living, sans condescension - the issues just come up when we talk about her life.
Frankie Vega is a unique and entertaining protagonist. She makes some pretty dodgy decisions (don't we all?), but you never really stop cheering for her. I felt like I was Aunt Vinnie throughout the entire novel, because I really wanted Frankie to succeed, but sometimes I wanted to yell at her as well. I think this was largely down to Plozza's writing - because above everything else, Frankie was hilarious. I actually laughed out loud at a lot of her comments, making her a much more sympathetic and relatable character.
The characterisation in this novel was its true strength (I swear I actually knew Cara in school). The romance never felt forced because I got to know the characters separately first, and saw them gradually develop feelings for each other (no insta-love, hurrah). Perhaps the only thing I did not love about this novel was its pacing. Frankie is attempting to solve a mystery of sorts throughout the novel, and we do not reach a resolution until right at the end. I would have liked to explore the aftermath of this discovery for just a little longer.
Overall, this is a stunning standalone novel with an interesting protagonist and brilliant characterisation. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a story about realistic Australian characters, or just feels like reading something honest and raw. I look forward to reading many more novels from Plozza!
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