Our Reading Lives

Reading My Way Through Depression

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This is a guest post from Marissa Cortes. Marissa lives and goes to school on Long Island, pursuing a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. She spends a lot of time painting her nails, procrastinating her homework, and buying books she can’t afford. One day, she hopes to be a published author. Follow her on Twitter @marissacor.

The first line of my favorite book is “This morning, my mother didn’t get out of bed.”

saving francescaI bought Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta on my e-reader when I was in seventh grade. My parents helped me the rest of the way toward the Nook I’d been saving up for, and I was experiencing a reading renaissance. It became a habit to scroll through lists of books and purchase whatever caught my eye– Saving Francesca was one, because the summary mentioned a sulky boy named Will and a lost girl named Francesca.

In the deepest corners of my heart, I am always a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope. You can sell me anything if you just mention some mutual pining and fluff. Francesca, however, is a kind of lost that thirteen-year-old me wasn’t equipped to handle or understand. I made it about ten pages in before I got bored and gave up.

A quick fast forward: I was a high school junior two weeks from my first SAT, and I was depressed. Nothing seemed to draw my interest anymore, and the fear of parental retribution for failing all my classes acted as my sole motivator. Rhyme and reason ceased to exist.

Francesca Spinelli begins the novel depressed, but she doesn’t really know it, either. She subscribes to no particularly strong causes because the effort is more than its worth. She tells herself that what she wants is to fit in, to attract no attention because that’d be showing off and therefore isolating. When Francesca’s normally exuberant mother suddenly can’t get out of bed anymore, every problem she ignored because caring was too hard threatens to tear her life apart.

For the first time, I felt like I was seeing myself from the outside. It wasn’t until Francesca realized that her behavior wasn’t healthy that I did, too. Marchetta’s portrayal of depression had no predecessor in any other form of media I had consumed up to that point, and it struck a chord in me.

The title of the novel is Saving Francesca, which leads you to believe that the sulky boy named Will in the summary is the one doing the saving. In reality, Francesca saves herself. Eventually, I did too.