Looking For Alibrandi is an Australian YA book I fell in love with as a teenager. Josephine Alibrandi is the title character, a headstrong young woman in her final year of a prestigious Sydney High School. Her family is Italian, large, and very traditional. She lives with her Mother in a small apartment and visits her Grandmother every day after school. Her Mother fell pregnant with Josie when she was very young, and she knew of her Father but had never met him.
Josie is the Vice Captain of her School, and determined to do well this year. She wants to be a famous barrister married to the boy of her dreams, John Barton, the wealthy son of a local politician. But most of all Josie longs to be emancipated, to run away from her culture and the traditions of her family.
It is a great set-up, and of course her entire life changes by the end of the book. One by one her grand plans are destroyed, and nothing turns out the way she thought it would. Instead of John Barton falling head over heels in love with her she attracts the attention of Jacob Coote, the uncouth, long-haired, motorcycle-riding Captain of Cook High, who is pretty much the sexiest boy in Sydney. They are from two different worlds and argue all the time. But their relationship works somehow, as challenging as it is.
She also has to deal with her father moving back into town and some juicy family secrets. And, of course, her year at school is far from stress-free. I think that’s one of the things I love about Looking For Alibrandi, how it all takes place during the most important and scariest year of your life. Everything comes down to this, your entire future depends upon the decisions you make now. The final year of High School is so exciting. Throw in some romance, an identity crisis, racial conflict, and a trio of strong-willed, sharp-tongued Italian women, and you’ve got the makings of a great book.
What makes it one of my favorite books is the character of Josie. She is very realistic and easy to relate to. Her personality isn’t perfect, and there are times when she is annoying, melodramatic and incredibly selfish – but what seventeen year old girl hasn’t said things she regrets later? Josie does stupid things in the heat of the moment and is peer pressured into trouble. And she has a wicked temper. But I love how she’s so unstable. Not only does it make for fun reading, but she is forced to learn from her behaviour and changes throughout the book.
Looking for Alibrandi is a coming-of-age story with a cultural twist and an important message. Instead of running from tradition, adapt to it. Well, that and boys on motorbikes are an automatic win.