REVIEW: Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

Published: 28th March 2016

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 314

Format: Paperback supplied by Penguin Books Australia for review

RRP: $17.99

5/5 Stars

Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke. Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who’s tired of giving second chances…When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie’s half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn’t want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes … and secrets of his own.Frankie’s search for the truth might change her life, or cost her everything.

This book flat out destroyed me. In every imaginable way. I have never laughed with characters so much, or cheered for them when things started happening – or yelled at the page when things didn’t. I also haven’t cried such big ugly crying tears since I read Melina Marchetta‘s On the Jellicoe Road. Seriously. When this book releases at the end of this month, you need to buy yourself a copy. Stat.

The above is the original mini-I’ve-just-finished-this-book-and-I-need-to-tell-you-about-it review that I posted on Goodreads the second I finished the book, and now weeks later, I still think it sums up the book brilliantly. It’s out in the world now, so do yourself a favour and track a copy down NOW!

If you haven’t already gathered I love this book so much. I’ve been reading a lot of fantastic 5 stars books recently, but somehow, this little gem of a début by Australia Author Shivaun Plozza is the one that stands out most in the world of 5 star ratings for me. It’s on whole other playing field. It’s the one that keeps haunting me. I can almost guarantee that it will be this book that I go back to and reread at least once more before the year is out … and I don’t reread this close to the original reading EVER!

Frankie is the story of Frankie Vega, a 17 year old high school student from Collingwood, Australia. She’s angry at the world and rightly so, for her 17 years have been anything but smooth sailing. Abandoned by her birth mother, and raised by her aunt Vinnie, Frankie lives each day as it comes. Armed with a quick tongue, attitude plus and a book of Shakespeare, she faces the teenage drama of high school as best she can. If only life was only as hard as dealing with cheating ex-boyfriends and high school bullies. Out of the blue, a 14 year old kid contacts Frankie claiming to be her half-brother; a half brother she never knew she had. Suddenly Frankie’s world is turned on its head and nothing will ever be the same again. Especially when the kid goes missing soon afterwards and it seems that the girl who knows nothing about him, is the only one who seems to give a shit.

Sure, he has dimples bought me dumplings and went to shit-loads of trouble trying to impress me. Sure he’s maybe the best graf artist in town. But he stole, lied and vanished. A certain other blood relative did that me fourteen years ago and I couldn’t give a shit what’s happened to her.

This book is about so much more than just another teenage girl angry at the world. It’s about friendship and family, love duty and honour; it’s about being who you are and finding your place in the world. It’s raw and it’s gut wrenching in parts, unashamedly gritty and honest; it’s real.

See? This is why I’m so angry. Because the second you consider opening yourself up to someone they tear your heart out.

It’s about a world that is often left out of YA novels. A world where life isn’t perfect; when there’s no fancy prince charming who comes to town and sweeps you off your feet and saves you from a life of misery, where you’re parents don’t have money or time for you, and when the world kind of just sucks. It’s from a place where kids have to make their own way or risk staying in the same ‘nothing’ space for their entire life. Where you fight for yourself every damn day of your life. Frankie doesn’t just live, she fights and reacts to the world that keeps pushing her down time and time again. Because she knows she’s better than that. She believes she can be better than that.

I absolutely loved the character of Frankie. Right from the first page, I just kind of ‘got’ her in a way I hadn’t ‘got’ a lot of characters lately. She was not just a fragment of Plozza’s and my imagination. She was real. A living breathing person that I might have passed walking down the street. Or sat alongside in class. She is raw … and she’s loud, refusing to be what other’s constantly tell her she is. More importantly she’s resilient.

In many ways, Frankie is a kick butt kind of character – literally in the case of the Shakespeare mishap -, so yeah she’s a super strong character, but she’s also flawed as much as you and I are. Like every other human being out there, she has emotions and she’s not immune to other’s taunts and judgements. Frankie is vulnerable, perhaps even fragile after the half brother revelation. But from this fragility lies her true strength of character, of loyalty and love.

Despite being considered trouble by those around her, Frankie has a heart of gold; one she is constantly trying to prove to the world. To prove to herself. Time and time again she has great intentions, but something happens or gets in the way that means Frankie is forced to act and then bad things tend to happen or people get let down. Frankie doesn’t make the great decisions at the best of times, but it’s not like she set out to do deliberately make ‘bad’ ones. She makes the best out of bad situations and she pays for her mistakes ten fold. She owns them, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of people in the world.

It’s kind of heartbreaking to read how much Frankie tries time and time again to impress or even just please Vinnie only to see it blow back up in her face and reinforce herself worth as a constant failure. She’s haunted by a past that she can’t change and left to face a future that she can only react to. React to save face. To protect herself. To survive the only way she knows how. That in itself shows a sense of true character and courage that often is missing in books.

What’s more the more energy Frankie tries to put into being what people want her to be or a better version of herself, the worse the outcome is. She’s let down by those around her – even Vinnie who has her best interests at heart demands that Frankie be someone that Frankie just .. isn’t. Constantly through out the book we see Frankie make these big gestures and moves to turn herself into a ‘better version’ of herself only to be told she was born bad and is beyond saving. There’s one particular scene in this book with Nonna that gutted me to the core whilst reading it. I literally had big fat ugly tears rolling down my checks, whilst in my head I was yelling at the characters and Plozza simultaneously for doing this to me, for doing this to her! Because as if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough in the first place, now she has to go through this!

You may as well quit fighting it, Frankie. You were born to do this. It’s in the DNA. It’s what everyone expects. Introducing Fankie 3.0. The most badass model yet.

I just love that Plozza was able to write such a kick-ass kind of character who is somehow both vulnerable, fragile and an emotional mess while simultaneously being so strong and wild, fighting against the constant walls of injustice that she sees day in and day out. Not that she’d see it that way of course.

Through Frankie, we learn a lot of hard truths. Take the value of missing people for example. Society only cares about missing individuals if they have something to offer back to society. A point highlighted constantly throughout the book with the contrast between the missing rich boy Harrison Finnik-Hyde and Xavier, the poor no good kid. Harrison Finnik-Hyde is spared no cost or media coverage to find him again, whereas Xavier (Frankie’s half brother) goes missing and no one cares but Frankie. Not Vinnie, not Nate (Xavier’s not so innocent friend) and most definitely not Detective Inspector Eric Marzoli.

‘I haven’t seen anything about Xavier in the papers. Harrison Finnik-Hyde was booted to page six today, but it was still an entire page more than my brother had.’

Marxoli holds the phone too close to his mouth, muffling his voice. ‘Do you know how many people go missing each day? They can’t all get a front page.’

‘Just the pretty ones. And the rich ones. Are you even looking into it?’

As disturbing and in your face this point is, I love that Plozza included this story arc. It makes me wonder now every time I hear of a missing person on the news, just what their circumstance is. Why are they deemed more worthy than someone else? And just how many missing people are out there that no one notices? It’s a pretty bleak way to look at life I’ll admit, but it’s an honest one.

Finally I loved Plozza’s writing style. I know I’m biased because I can’t stop raving about how amazing the book is, but for someone to be about to write a narrative with such ugly truths and connotations, and shape it into a story that is both heart breaking and a beauty to hold is nothing short of inspiring. This book is dark in places, not to mention an emotional roller-coaster that will leave you knocking your head hard at every twist and turn, but it’s uplifting and awe inspiring too. It has heart and courage. But it’s also funny. Plozza nailed the teenage voice. She constantly employs whit and laugh-out-loud humour to break up the emotional over powering sections so that you’re not bogged down in heavier scenes. I loved it.

What’s more, it’s a quick read. I read it in a day, so be prepared to have a clear schedule when you pick this one up, because from me to you, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve reached the final sentence on the last page. Perhaps even not then. I know I didn’t!

Frankie has everything I love about a good book. It’s fast paced, with strong but flawed characters who won’t leave you alone. There’s mystery and suspense, a bit of romance and book eye-candy, and the narrative is unique. It packs an emotional punch and there’s so much more I want to discuss about the book, but in order to keep it spoiler-free I can’t! So just buy it, read it, devour it, and then come and talk to me! I really think this book has something in it for everyone.

I laughed. I cried. I gripped the book tighter and raced through its pages. I sacrificed sleep and a working day’s concentration… I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact I did. During the writing of this review, I went looking for quotes and before I knew it, I’d re-read the book again!

I know it’s really early to call it already, but hands down this is the best book I’ve read all year.

Début author Shivaun Plozza has a HUGE future ahead of her, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

Ideal for fans of Melina Marchetta’s On The Jellicoe Road.

To learn more about Shivaun Plozza, visit the following websites:

Author WebsiteTwitter | Penguin Teen Australia | Penguin Books AustraliaInstagram |

To purchase a copy of Frankie, visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | Book Depository | QBD | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld |

2016aww

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