Josephine Alibrandi (Josie) starts her last year of school at St Martha’s wanting to separate herself from the Italian culture and racism that she has to deal with every day. She feels as though these things are holding her back in life but throughout the book she realises that her culture is her identity and when she embraces it she experiences true freedom and she feels as though she has broken free. The book ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ is about Josie growing up and finding out who she really is and accepting herself.
At home Josie has a strong relationship with her mother (Christina) and this has developed as there is no one else there for her at home. For 17 years Josie has never been with a male influence in her life as she is illegitimate and has no father. Most afternoons Josie has to visit her Nonna (Katia) and they have a strange relationship; Josie says she hates her as she (Katia) is always putting down Christina, ‘I hated her because she never had anything nice to say about mama. I hated her because she never let my mother forget the past’, but when Josie learns about the truth she describes Katia as one of the strongest people she knows. Josie says ‘I am loved by the 2 bravest people in the world’.
At school Josie feels like her and her friends are the outcasts of the school ‘Our group represents all types, yet we hadn’t fitted into any of them in Year 7’. She feels as though she doesn’t fit in to the Italian or the Australian community because of her illegitimacy and the racism shown towards her. Being labelled names such as Wog, New Australian and Ethnic are terms that Josie hates being called and this leads to her hitting Carly Bishop with her science book. The day after the walk-a-thon changes the way Josie sees herself as she learns that she was voted school captain by the students and she wasn’t as ‘hated’ as she thought she was. Sister Louise says to her ‘You and your friends are trendsetters. The girls look up to you. They copy what you do’, this is something that sets Josie free knowing that being different is sometimes an advantage and not a disadvantage.
Josie has a typical school rivalry with Ivy Lloyd (referred to by Josie as Poison Ivy) and at the start of the book hates her with a passion, Josie describes their relationship by saying ‘We hate each other’s guts’. By the end of the book Josie ends up seeing the many similarities between her and Ivy and wants to be her friend ‘If we go to the same university and we bump into each other one day, let’s have a cappuccino and talk’. This is another thing that sets Josie free; it teaches her that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and to give people chances.
Love also plays a part in setting Josie free as it allows her to experience a new part of life. Her relationship with Jacob Coote is new for her and for her family as he is not of Italian heritage. Josie also admits that she had a crush on the successful John Barton before she liked Jacob ‘I wish I loved John Barton and everyone would envy me, but I don’t… I love Jacob Coote’. Josie has a special relationship with Jacob as there are many differences and Josie feels as though they are perfect together ‘I felt so in touch with him. I had never felt like that before’. Although they have a working relationship the differences become too much for Jacob and he decides that they should both move on, this decision leaves Josie heartbroken and this also helps set her free as she experiences differences in life and not just the same strict rules that are set upon her by her Italian heritage.
Another step towards freedom is John Barton’s suicide, John and Josie are really close friends and Josie is really hurt and saddened because of his death. After John commits suicide Josie is originally angry at him because she believed he had the perfect life but later realises that he didn’t enjoy his life because there was too much pressure put on him ‘Can you see what I see? No I don’t think you can. I see images of nothing and I attempt to make that nothingness mean something. As hard as I try there is still nothing and that nothing is meaningless. I am somewhere else now, outside. I am surrounded by people and the sky. I see the people and the blueness of the sky but nothing has changed. Everything remains the same. I am still alone.’ Not only does it show Josie that life isn’t perfect it also sees the beginning of her friendship with Ivy Lloyd.
Something that helped Josie break free was spending time with Nonna Katia and listening to her stories. Listening to Nonna Katia’s stories were at first annoying to Josie but in the end Josie realised how strong and brave Katia actually was. After listening to Katia’s stories Josie pieces together the little bits of information and finds out that an Australian man named Marcus Sanford had a relationship with Katia when her husband was away, causing Katia to fall pregnant with Christina. Josie finds out the truth of Katia’s past and cries ‘and I cried because I was loved by two of the strongest people I would ever meet in my lifetime.’
One of the most important things that happen to Josie is her relationship with Michael Andretti. The first ever time she sees him she hates him and wants nothing to do with him as he told Christina ‘I do not want a complication in my life’ but every time that they see each other they like each other better than before and when Josie hits Carly with her book she calls Michael Andretti to come and defend her. When Josie finds out the real reason why he left she says that she might love him and at the end of the book Josie accepts Michael’s decision of adoption, which allowed her to become Josephine Andretti.
In the end Josie is set free because the people that have been close to her have helped her find out whom she really. Having complex relationships with people like Nonna Katia and Jacob Coote helped her realise that people aren’t perfect and you can bend and break rules in life. Finding out the truth about her past from Nonna Katia and Michael Andretti helped Josie understand who she is. Josie also experienced events such as John Barton’s death which helped Josie realise the value of life and helped her break free. Most importantly the different relationships Josie shares with people like her mother, Jacob Coote, Michael Andretti, John Barton, Nonna Katia and even Ivy Lloyd because these people helped Josie understand who she really is in different ways, these people were always there for her when she needed it most and because of this Josie learnt to feel valued and important through relationships and experiences. Josephine Andretti discovered the value and self worth and when that one day came Josephine Andretti also experienced her freedom.