Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
Penguin Books Australia, 2016. ISBN 9780143573166
(Age: 15+) Recommended. CBCA Book of the Year shortlist 2017. Frankie is smart, intellectually brilliant and very, very angry. Abandoned by her mother, her father not around at all, she is only just tolerated by her school peers and teachers. Frankie has been brought up by her Aunt Vinnie and has one best friend. When a half-brother suddenly appears in her life she is excited, confused and very angry with the discovery that while her mother 'dumped' her, she kept her brother, Xavier. Yet Frankie yearns to befriend him, even when she discovers that he is not a good, or even a nice, person. In fact, seeking him, she comes into the world of criminals, violence and the terrible deprivations of those who have lost everything through drugs or criminal activities.
In trouble at school, at home, and pursued by the school, and subsequently the law, for her violence, Frankie almost gives up hope. It is only with the loving intervention of her exasperated aunt and good, loyal friend that Frankie finally finds a way to crawl out of the depths of despair, declaring her independence: 'I'm nobody's daughter. Nobody's friend. Nobody's sister'.
This is a powerful novel of the world experienced by so many disenfranchised children. We are discomforted by children stealing to survive, by their experience of violent, abusive worlds, often living in abandoned houses, or on the streets, ill-treated or ignored by family or drug-addicted carers, hungry and so angry that they can barely tolerate any loving concern, school rules, or their society. This beautifully told narrative resonates long after it has been read, and the issues hit the reader starkly. Plozza passionately presents a call to witness a modern city in disarray, a world that cares little for those who have little, those who live in dirt, loneliness and poverty, who thieve and bash and threaten in order to survive in the big cities, who dwell in an underworld that few of the privileged would recognize. A brave, shining star, Plozza recognises those who are abandoned, poor and struggling to find a place to live, to find food and shelter, in this most disconcerting narrative of a troubled world.