Written by Shivaun Plozza
Published March 23rd 2016
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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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 could change her life, or cost her everything.
Textbook weapon wielding, sassy and smart mouthed. Meet the princess of Collingwood, seventeen year old Frankie Vega who finds herself on yet another suspension.
It's always been Frankie and her Aunt Vinnie against the world, having taken in then four year old Frankie after her mother had abandoned her. Now Frankie spends her days working in Vinnie's kebab shop, suspended over yet another violent outburst when she receives a call that will change her life.
Artistic, sarcastic and criminally minded fourteen year old Xavier is Frankie's half brother, sharing the same self absorbed mother tha abandoned her all those years ago. He now lives with his father in a small, run down suburban home while being beaten, neglected and forced into crime in order to make ends meet. Frankie knows all too well what it's like to be abandoned and despite her inability to trust others, she feels a familial connection to Xavier and the two half siblings form a tentative relationship. Then Xavier disappears.
While the search continues, Frankie's about to be expelled, her best friend refuses to speak to her and Vinnie no longer trusts her, yet again disappointing her aunt who has raised her as her own. With his father more concerned with his missing credit card funds and a gruff detective refusing investigate his disappearance, the last person to have seen Xavier is the blue eyed, petty criminal Nate. Reluctantly, Nate decides to help Frankie but as the two delve deeper into Xavier's disappearance, Frankie's will need to pick up the pieces of her fractured life or risk losing it all.
Frankie is without a doubt, the most compelling debut in young adult since Stolen by Lucy Christopher. It's an utterly enchanting blend of attitude, sass and an engaging storyline as told through the eyes of one of the most likable protagonists in young adult today. Although she's always lived with the hurt of abandonment, Frankie is incredibly fierce and doesn't allow the failures of her mother to define her. She and aunt Vinnie live above Vinnie's kebab shop in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, with an eclectic mix of diversity and crime. It's here that Frankie now finds herself working, having been suspended from school after another violent outburst, when she is contacted by Xavier claiming to be her half brother.
Xavier too has his own issues, the fourteen year old just having moved to Melbourne from Queensland with his abusive, gruff father. The very same man that Frankie's mother had abandoned her for all those years ago. Perhaps Xavier is the only person who may understand how Frankie is feeling but then Xavier vanishes. The local detectives see Xavier as just another runaway, the Vega name not worthy of their time so Frankie takes the investigation into her own hands and enlists the help of local neighbourhood burglar Nate. Possibly the only person to know of Xavier's whereabouts... Or who cares.
My heart ached for Frankie as she felt she had nowhere to turn for help. Vinnie, although such pillar of strength and support in Frankie's life, was tired of her antics. Suspended for a violent incident at school, to return Frankie is forced to plead her case. In between her therapy sessions with the infuriatingly passive Daniel, the only calming presence in Frankie's life is her best friend in Cara but lately their friendship is also at breaking point. Frankie's sole focus is that of finding her brother which means breaking curfew, disregarding Vinnie, school and visiting the seedy underbelly of the northern suburbs of Melbourne to find him. What struck me most was how genuine Frankie's character felt and realistically flawed.
The romance was barely there, but the attraction between Frankie and Nate was intense and dangerously sexy. Nate's character smoulders, but underneath his couldn't care less bravado lies a boy does what he can to survive, rather than just another petty thief. Although both were dealing with their own issues, they slowly begun to rely on one another for support and companionship.
Frankie is Melbourne. From the language, diversity to the uniqueness of the northern suburbs. During my teen years, these were my people. From the streets of Reservoir to Victoria Park, the Preston Market to the factory outlets along Smith Street Collingwood, it was so incredibly vivid and beautifully written with such an honesty of how fundamentally flawed life in general is.
The Final Verdict
Shivaun Plozza, you are a force to be reckoned with. Shivaun is an author who brings stories to life through her characters, her intensity and honesty. A remarkable debut from an author who captured me from the very first page.