Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
HarperCollins, 432 pages
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.
I’m a little bit OC when it comes to my reviewing order, and it’s not often that I skip over some books I need to review first to write one for another. Usually doing that means one of the following: I am in a hurry to post a review for the book for a deadline (doesn’t usually happen), or I love the book so much that I just have to write a review about it immediately.
Such is Jellicoe Road, my second Melina Marchetta book. Ever since I finished and enjoyed Saving Francesca, I’ve been itching to read another Marchetta book to experience the goodness of her writing and the realness of her characters. But alas, I know I must pace myself because Jellicoe was the only other book I had of hers — I still had to buy The Piper’s Son and Looking for Alibrandi after Holy Week. After finishing two books from my Required Reading for April, I decided to reward myself with her book.
And man, was it such a good idea. I gobbled up Jellicoe Road so fast that I surprised myself. Jellicoe Road is the story of Taylor Markham, whose mom left her when she was 11, picked up shortly by Hannah. At fourteen, she ran away from her boarding school to look for her mom only to be found and brought back by a stranger. Now, she’s almost eighteen, and she is the leader of their school’s underground community that is neck deep in a territory war with the kids from Jellicoe town called Townies and a group of kids undergoing military training aptly named Cadets. Then Hannah disappears and it throws Taylor’s life out of the loop. If it wasn’t enough, the leader of the Cadets turn out to be Jonah Griggs, a guy from Taylor’s past that she’s trying hard to forget. Taylor’s life unravels as she tries to cope with Hannah’s disappearance, piecing together clues Hannah left and things her memory is trying to hide from her.
One word: wow. I was warned that this book would be an emotional ride, but I wasn’t expecting that. It’s really hard to describe the book without putting a spoiler, and the last thing you want to be with this book is to be spoiled. I’ve been warned that the first 100 pages or so of this book would be confusing, and indeed it was. For some people, this might be enough for them to stop reading and never revisit the book again, but trust me when I say this: don’t. Keep on reading, and somewhere a few pages later, you’ll find that this book had you in its grip and will refuse to let you go up until the last page.
Just like in Saving Francesca, Marchetta definitely had her way with the characters and how they interact here. I thought the book would just be about the territory wars, which kind of turns me off, but the author made that as interesting as figuring out Taylor’s past. I loved the relationships that the characters formed in this book — they all had history with each other, and even if I have equally awesome friends, this book made me crave the same history that Taylor wanted: “These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking.” I loved how they all just formed this friendship without too much effort, and how some characters who come off as annoying at first become even a little bit endearing in the end.
But that plot — oh that plot. When I got to my first “aha!” moment in the book, I just couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what happens next and I want it now. At the same time, I also didn’t want it to end. I just want to live in Jellicoe Road, if that was possible. I loved how everything tied up together at the end, and how the story kept on surprising me everyday. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was still surprised at the end, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that did just that. When I was done with the book, I had an extreme desire to reread it all over again, if only to figure out what part I missed now that I knew how everything fits.
While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do. Like what I tweeted, reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again. It was that awesome. Jellicoe Road reminded me of why I love contemporary YA, and it definitely made me a fan of Melina Marchetta. :)
Read it, read it. Take your time with the start and be amazed at how Marchetta weaves a story so beautiful that it keeps a hold on you long after you have closed the book. ♥
My copy: paperback from National Bookstore
Cover and blurb: Goodreads