Review of ‘Looking for Alibrandi’

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Title: Looking for Alibrandi
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Penguin Australia (published 1992)
Age Range: Young adult, Adults
Themes: Feeling Like an Outsider, Pressure, Immigration, Family Ties, Community and Tradition, Cultural Differences and Racism, Self-discovery Sophie Fu is a longtime reader of Children’s Books Daily and she regularly ‘pops up’ on my socials and in Your Kid’s Next Read.

Sophie and her family have recently started reviewing for me and she is starting with a ‘look back’ at one of my personal favourites from 1992, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. It’s interesting that Melina Marchetta is so firmly back on my radar in the last year with her ‘Zola’ series and I have been considering re-reading Alibrandi as it was so very much a part of my late teens. I love that Sophie revisited this ‘ole literary friend’ – you can see all reviews from Sophie and her family under the tag ‘The Fu Family’ . Thank you Sophie!

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‘Looking for Alibrandi’

Revisiting an ole friend

I recently revisited/reacquainted with an ‘ole friend’ in the form of reading Melina Marchetta’s debut novel published in 1992. The first time I read this novel I was 17 years old. Fast forward to 2021 and I am now an older and more experienced reader and a 45-year-old mum!

I believe one of the benefits of COVID-19 has been the ‘time’ it gifted us, ‘time’ to slow down, ‘time’ to reflect and appreciate what we have in our lives. We were all so busy while being busy! My Mum used to say; “Stop the World, I want to get off”. In reality COVID-19 gave us ‘time’ to do what we have always wanted to do, but perhaps didn’t prioritise within our busy lives.

To complete the ‘ole friend’ experience of reading this book, I went searching for a second-hand copy within the walls of Bent Books at West End and found it! It immediately felt familiar. To an author this must be the ultimate compliment for someone to take the time to reread a book, even though there are so many other books out there screaming for the reader’s attention to “pick me!”. There in lies the magic of a good read.

Who knows, the pre-loved copy of ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ I purchased may in fact have been my copy from when I was younger? Now that is a comforting thought …

I would like to dedicate this article and give thanks to those authors out there who have helped me become who I am today, simply by reading their book/s, reflecting and growing in the process.

“Promise me you’ll never stop dreaming.”

Melina Marchetta, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’

I recently reread ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ by Melina Marchetta (1992). I thought the book was a good read in my youth. Today it is even better in middle age! It started me thinking about how  books I read as a teenager have helped to shape me into the person I am today. The appreciation is enhanced by experiences that I had been through in the  hard stages of growing up, adolescence, career, marriage, starting a family and raising a teenager.

Interestingly,  a lot of the themes covered within ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ are still very current today. Particularly for teenagers the same pressures exist such as, doing well academically in Grade 12, getting a good job and being a good family member.  

One can appreciate and relate to many of the themes covered within the novel. One major hurdle that really haunts and troubles teenagers is the feeling of not fitting in or being accepted by their peers. When in actual fact, it is not until you ‘leave’ school that you have the time and ability to find out who you are, what brings you joy and how you can go about finding contentment.

The book covers a lot of topics that bring back memories of my own/youth such as, studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth during High school. Multiculturalism being such a contentious issue both then and now. Marchetta really summed up multiculturalism well in her book.  ‘If someone comes up and asks me what nationality I am, I’ll look at them and say that I’m an Australian with Italian blood flowing rapidly through my veins. I’ll say that with pride, because it’s pride that I feel.’

Another memory I enjoyed revisiting was the description of watching and doing Jane Fonda’s aerobic workouts on video and reminiscing about feasting our eyes on a visual sea of fluorescent lycra wear from top to toe, including headbands and leg warmers! Reading Mills and Boon books as a way of learning quickly and explicitly! Remembering the most fashionable and popular brands of clothing was the trio of Country Road, Sportsgirl and now defunct Esprit. Similarly, today as well as in the early 90’s sexually active teenagers exist and the struggles teenagers face including unprotected sex and STD’s are as relevant today as back then.

The memories of growing up is different from the perspective of a grown up, the appreciation in a retrospective sense is often not a luxury a teenager can afford. However, re-reading this book, hopefully can allow you to bring yourself closer to the teenage daughter living through it now.

By the same author:

‘What Zola Did On … ‘ Series.

‘On the Jellicoe Road’

‘Saving Francesca’

‘The Place on Dalhousie’

Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

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