Melina Marchetta wants us as readers to realise that Josie's attitude towards being a second generation Australian in a closely-knit Italian community gradually changes throughout the novel as Josie begins to understand her heritage and ultimately herself.
For 17 years of her life, Josephine Alibrandi had been caught in the middle of two societies. She had always been trapped between two distinctly different cultural worlds and these cultural dissimilarities became more of a problem when she reached high school. From the beginning of the novel it is evident that Josie wants to fit in at her school but feels she can't because she is Italian. Josie struggles to be part of the world that John Barton and Ivy Lloyd represent: wealth, prestige and social acceptance. Josie resents the fact that she is Italian and feels that her culture is her one drawback, restraining her from social acceptance and approval. "I felt disadvantaged from the beginning caught up in the middle of two societies." Pg 7.
Josie's greatest challenge, though, is with her grandmother, Nonna Katia, as she is unable to understand her Italian rules and regulations and the fact that the way of life between the two of them is so different. " having to see my grandmother every afternoon drives me absolutely insane." Pg 33.
If the world around Josephine was seemingly complex, it is made all the more complicated by the sudden arrival back in her and her mother Christina's life of Michael Andretti, her father. It is Michaels return to Sydney on business, which starts a series of events that lead Josie to question no only who she is, but where she belongs. During the course of the novel and the most life-altering year of her life, Josie begins a serious relationship with Jacob Coote, has to deal with the unexpected death of John Barton, finds out about her past and the past of her Nonna and discovers who her real grandfather is. All of these things force Josie to reassess her life as she desperately tries to get a sense of who she really is.