Seventeen year-old Julia Marconi, dreams of the day she can break free of her abusive father’s hold over her and away from her “big, fat drama-queen” mother.
Her parents, traditional Italian migrants, have always dictated Julia’s life and her future, but Julia only wants to run away with her brother Joe’s long-time friend, Robbie Ventura, who she is desperately in love with, and away from her arranged marriage with the baker’s son.
In a slow-paced town, where the only excitement that occurs is the gypsy carnival arriving each summer, reputation is everything, but Julia yearns for more, and in secretly rebelling against her parents, Julia begins to discover more about herself, meeting Liliana, the fortune telling gypsy who predicts her mischievous future and desire for love, and Julia begins to uncover secrets her family thought they had buried.
Some of the characters in the book feel inconsistent and not fully thought out, which to me as a reader prevented me from relating to them or caring about what happens to them, but sometimes this works in favour of the events in the book as there are situations that the reader may not expect and the unfamiliarity with the characters makes it unpredictable and creates some unexpected plot twists.
I can see the kind of characters Jo Vraca is trying to create, but the inconsistencies created plot-holes throughout the book and the reactions from some of the characters didn’t feel genuine as no clear character development is outlined.
Robbie takes a sudden interest in Julia, which seems simulated and not natural to the characters, and prevents relationship development,
“Robbie had barely even turned around to look at her.
‘Of course, he doesn’t notice you. You’re a kid… As though he even knows you’re alive.’”
Throughout most of the text, Jo uses strong language to portray emotion but her use of swearing can sometimes make the dialogue feel disjointed and too harsh, and I think her choice in language could have been selected more sensibly. Aside from this, she uses lots of good descriptive language that creates a vivid impression and vision of the town and its surroundings.
“The wagon was unlike anything she had ever seen: red with golden swirls and bunches of purple grapes painted across the front door. Spokes that were once white with thin red trim were muddied and peeling. A woman sat at a window whose shutters were thrown open. She had the air of some bored beauty queen in a parade, except she looked nothing like a beauty queen, with that mess of red hair that hung around her face like fairy floss.”
The end of Floating Upstream, although isn’t one of closure, or with a full sense of happiness or sadness, suits the theme of the book, and represents the ups and downs experienced in life. The ending shows the overall character development that occurred throughout the book that wasn’t always clear.
Although this book had plot holes, and there was the occasional typo, it was an enjoyable read and a great Australian novel. It was emotional and unique in the values that Julia was faced with, by her parents and the society she lives in and was uplifting in the breaking away from expectations and painful memories.
Reviewed by Kalina (Age 16)
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Read a sample of Floating Upstream by Jo Vraca below..
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