Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

A review by Nalini Haynes

Frankie was expelled from school for hitting a boy with a Shakespearean tome but she won’t tell anyone what happened. She’s just discovered she has a brother, Xavier, by her errant and absent mother. Her best friend alternates between being supportive and being mad at her for not spending time together and not telling her everything.

And current events trigger forgotten memories of a traumatic childhood.

Vinnie is Frankie’s aunt; she took the toddler in when no one else wanted her, not even her Nona. Vinnie expects a lot of Frankie: to work shifts at the Emporium, cooking and selling kebabs; to work hard in school to earn a better life for herself and to stay out of trouble. Vinnie is giving up on Frankie too.

Xavier is Frankie’s mother’s son so Frankie has little hope of him yet, when Xavier goes missing, Frankie tries to find him.

Frankie’s search for Xavier and other people’s reactions to Xavier’s disappearance are contrasted with a running media commentary on the search for a missing teenager from a wealthy family.

Encounters with Steve Sparrow, the boy Frankie hit who also comes from a wealthy family, emphasize class differences. Sparrow senior makes threats and behaves aggressively with impunity while Steve Sparrow is caught out behaving inappropriately, again with impunity.

All too often, authors’ idea of being ‘poor’ is to not have the most expensive fashions and latest gadgets, being victimised by the cheerleaders and jocks. In contrast Plozza’s awareness of the socio-economic divide, her realism, makes my heart bleed. Frankie is a genuine representative for those whose families struggle, who themselves struggle to get through high school and who struggle to get through life.

I cried.

I also laughed out loud.

Frankie is gritty social realism set in contemporary Melbourne. She’s feisty, a fighter who won’t be kept down. She’s a kick-ass chick of realistic, real-world character, standing as a role model to us all, standing as a representative of the dispossessed who have experienced real poverty. Tragic, funny and heartwarming; I highly recommend Frankie.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN-13: 9780143573166
ISBN-10: 0143573160
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Frankie — a watercolour of a teenage girl turned side on to the viewer, looking at the viewer over her shoulder. Her arms are crossed, her shoulders hunched. Earthy tones.