This book explores the transition from adolescence to adulthood in a gritty and emotional way. This transition is never easy, but it's especially hard for Anna and Francesca. They live in a poverty stricken town next to a dying steel mill.In Piombino, drug addiction is prevalent, abuse is frequent, and criminal activity is routine. I don't believe I've ever read about more despondent characters.This novel nearly suffocated me with it's hopelessness. It made me uncomfortable as well. Reading about these young girls using their sexuality left me feeling squeamish.And yet...While Swimming to Elba is far from a cheerful story I found it powerful and important. Anna and Francesca are still on my mind. They won't soon be forgotten.