Also by this author: Finnikin of the Rock
Published by Harper Collins on 2010-04-06
Genres: Adolescence, Family, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Orphans & Foster Homes, Social Issues, Young Adult
Buy on Amazon
In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.
You know how there is that one book that EVERY SINGLE YA READER except for you has read? Or at least, that is how it feels? For me, that one book was Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta which is like a super huge deal of a book in young adult community, at least among the circles that I find myself in. I mean, I have read Marchetta before — two books – Looking For Alibrandi and Finnikin Of The Rock but for some odd reason, I have been so nervous about Jellicoe Road because so many people love it and because it won a Printz award which is a super huge deal. I did not want to be the person who did not like it. Thankfully, I really loved Jellicoe Road, granted no tears were jerked for me and I love Finnikin Of The Rock more, but it was a great book and reminded me that I need to spend less time reading bullshit books and more time reading books that are legitimately excellent.
I am at a little bit of a loss when it comes to describing the plot of Jellicoe Road. What you should know about my experience reading this book is that I mostly went in blind. Sure, I knew there was a lot of hype. I knew the names of Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs. I knew there was something like a color war. I knew there was a scene with a cat that leaves people divided. But beyond that, I knew pretty much nothing about Jellicoe Road. It was all new and a mystery to me.
What I will tell you, dear reader friend, is that the book opens with Taylor being elected the leader in this boundary skirmish between students at the boarding school where she lives, the Townies, and the Cadets who visit the area every summer. The boundary war plays a super huge part and I won’t tell you more except to say I was kind of really confused and all WTF is this noise, but then I kept on reading and I had a lightbulb moment and it was brilliant. There’s also a parallel story of five youths and a tragedy interspersed with Taylor’s narrative and how the story connects is just perfectly done.
Taylor Markham is kind of prickly at first. She’s the sort of character that I just did not immediately fall in love with. She holds everyone around her at length but it’s for a good reason. Girl has had a hard life. When she was pretty young, her mom left her at a 7-11 and so Hannah, this woman who works at her school kind of, goes to pick her up and Taylor ends up living on the Jellicoe Road at the boarding school. Then, this man who lives on the Jellicoe Road called the Hermit commits suicide in Taylor’s presence. So, yeah, she’s not the easiest character, but oh my goodness I wanted to reach in and save her, but luckily I did not have to because she has an awesome group of friends (Raffaela, Santangelo, and Jonah, and Ben and Jessa and Chloe). Part of why I loved Taylor is her support system.
Speaking of people in Taylor’s support system can we take a second and talk about her love interest, Jonah Griggs. Jonah is the leader of the Cadets, which rival Taylor’s school in the boundary game. Yet, Taylor and Jonah have quite the history. When she was 14, she tried to run away from Jellicoe Road and take the train to Sydney with Jonah but he chickened out and called the Brigadier. Throughout the book, Taylor and Jonah are thrown together again and they interact and it’s like two magnets that just keep revolving around the other. Like Taylor, Jonah has had a hard life, including growing up with a very abusive dad. What I like is that the two have traumas that still manage to affect them, but it does not take over their entire lives. Also, Jonah is kind of perfect for Taylor.
What I loved the most about Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta was the imagery. I thought she did this great job portraying the Jellicoe Road as this peaceful, gorgeous place in nature that I would want to visit. I just imagine all these tall trees shading this winding road and maybe I am a little off base, but I liked the images it evoked. There’s also the Prayer Tree which is a piece of territory that the boarding school kids have lost but which is a piece that Raffy insists Taylor try to win back as community leader. I thought the Prayer Tree would be stupid until I got to the scene and then realized just how profound it was. I actually understood why Raffy was so insistent on gaining the Prayer Tree back. There’s another feeling of peace when reading that scene.
Finally, Melina Marchetta’s writing is so impressive. Every little element of the story has meaning. Everything is connected and when the connections are finally figured out and unraveled, I felt like my mind was totally blown. I am such a sucker for books with huge overarching plots and themes and I have to say, this book had my number. Jellicoe Road is such a nuanced read that to me, it’s no wonder that it won a Printz award. It’s one of those books that affirm why I love Aussie YA and why I love reading in general and why I am totally okay with dog earing pages with beautiful writing. This book is for people who are looking for a read that is not a bullshit book, but something with deeper meaning.