This book made me remember why I tend to only read fantasy: everyday life is just so ... tedious. I realize that I am in a very tiny minority when it comes to disliking this book, and it always makes me feel like I'm missing something when I don't like a book or series lauded as incredible. I have to wonder if perhaps this type of book just isn't for me though, and that because of the way I grew up and the environment I was raised in I just won't ever be able to relate to something like this. For most of this book I felt bored and disconnected. I couldn't empathize with any of the characters and I didn't really like Francesca. I thought she was a spineless brat for most of the book, and I understood why nobody really liked her in the beginning.Francesca is dealing with her mother's depression and also with starting a new school year at a recently female integrated all boys school. On the subject of depression; I had a particularly hard time relating to the struggle Francesca goes through with her family. Not to get all "after school special" up in here, but I have personally dealt with depression. Stemming from an injury/illness/medication, I've been through those days where I'd lay in bed and wonder what's the point of getting up. I'd sleep for 10 to 12 hours and then just stare at the ceiling for another hour or two. I wouldn't shower, I wouldn't eat, and I dropped my classes at school. I didn't even feel like reading, and that's when I realized I really had a problem.That's the thing though, I realized I had a problem and I worked to fix it. I know every person is different, but I didn't appreciate the fact that Francesca's mother only starts to get better when her family decides to give a damn. They try to ignore the problem, the children get separated and stay with other relatives, and the father passively waits for her to break out of it on her own. It's not until they come back and try to actively help and support her does her depression start to dissipate. It made me angry that this strong, intelligent, and outgoing person couldn't find the strength to break out of her depression. I'm all for accepting the help of others, but I don't like the idea that she couldn't help herself. I also thought it was incredibly irresponsible to let her deteriorate for so long and not get help from actual doctors - medical or therapeutic. The whole "wait and see" method is not something I would consider a good idea when it comes to depression. Now, I'm not ignorant and I know depression can sometimes be sudden, especially after trauma, but that doesn't mean I understand or can relate to it. I believe that people find strength from within and use their support group to bolster their reserves, not the other way around, so this whole plot point just didn't sit well with me.Francesca's new school life had such a soap opera-like feel to it; the catty girls, the awkward and dickhead boys, the mean teachers - it just all felt so contrived. I will never in my life understand why people put up with bitchy girls and bullies. This is probably a product of the environment I grew up in though, since I actually loved school and didn't have major problems with anyone. This whole book centers around the concept of self and fitting in and the like, and it was just another instance of me not "getting" it. Francesca is constantly looking for acceptance and I felt like the message here was the same one that was being implied in regards to her mother's condition; that you need other people in order to be happy.On top of all of this we're forced to tag along with Francesca throughout her day. We get to sit with her through meals, walk with her through the halls of her school, go to class, eat lunch in the cafeteria, ride the bus. There's a time to imbue realness into a story, and then there's a time to dial it back. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not interested in reading about the daily minutiae of a teenager's life.Another thing that bothered me were all the pop-culture references. It wasn't just that they were dated, but that they were so obscure and random that it made me think that Marchetta was just trying to up her credibility with teenagers, but by doing so she actually made it woefully clear that she's out of touch. At the time this book was written, 2003, I was only about 4 years older than the characters so I remember what was popular back then. It definitely wasn't discmans and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I realize that this is set in Australia, and if it's anything like Canada, it's quite possible that something old in the United States is new there. I don't think they're 10 years behind though.This whole book was just too melodramatic and unbelievable for me to really enjoy. I think it takes a really special piece of realistic fiction to draw me in though, so I'm not entirely surprised that I didn't like this. I can see the appeal, but it's just not for me. I know she also writes fantasy, so I'm going to give Finnikin of the Rock a chance, and hopefully then I'll get to experience what everyone else does when they read her books.