Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 432
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

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. ♥

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Attack of the Book
Forever Young Adult

Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca by Melina marchettaSaving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Knopf
Number of pages: 243
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

“Most of my friends now go to Pius Senior College, but my mother wouldn’t allow it because she says the girls there leave with limited options and she didn’t bring me up to have limitations placed upon me. If you know my mother, you’ll sense there’s an irony there, based on the fact that she is the Queen of the Limitation Placers in my life.”

Francesca battles her mother Mia constantly over what’s best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian’s, an all-boys’ school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca’s surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos – or worse.

Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother’s high spirits she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn’t yet realize that she’s more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St Sebastian’s, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and especially herself.

* * *

This particular cover for Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca is a lie. I expected a quirky, funny and light novel, but it didn’t give me that. I thought it would be just funny, friends, and I honestly thought I would only be in for a quick and light in-between read, but it wasn’t that.

Saving Francesca was funny. Quirky. It was light in some ways, and being less than 250 pages, it was a very quick read indeed. I thought it would be just that. Look at the cover and tell me, wouldn’t you expect the same thing? I think I must clarify, though — it wasn’t just what I was expecting if I were to judge it by its cover. It was more. Friends, I was expecting to only like this book. I wasn’t expecting to love it.

Francesca’s mom, Mia, is a hands-on mom who wants nothing but the best for her daughter. Francesca is used to waking up to her mom giving her pep talks for conquering her day especially after she’s moved to the recently co-ed St. Sebastian’s. However, one day, Mia just simply doesn’t get out of bed. Francesca’s days are suddenly plunged into a surprising silence from her Mom and everything she knows suddenly doesn’t make sense. Not only is her family falling apart, but she had no friends in St. Sebastian’s, and it doesn’t help that she’s having weird feelings for popular guy William Thrombal. Francesca needs saving — stat.

I’ve been meaning to read a Marchetta book for the longest time, as everyone I know who’s read them keeps on singing praises to her books. As a fan of contemporary YA, not reading Marchetta’s books seem like a crime, so I finally gave in and cracked this book last week. And I was really, really glad I did. :)

Marchetta certainly knows how to make it all realistic. Francesca is such a strong character that even in her weak moments, she shows a unique strength that makes you root for her all the way. My heart broke for her when she finds herself lost, and I rejoiced when I see her slowly rising up. She’s one of those heroines that will remain with you and wish to be there for when she needed someone the most.

But then again, as the story goes, you’d realize that maybe Francesca had all that she needs after all. The best part of this book (and I hear most of Marchetta’s books) are the relationships. I loved Francesca’s family and her friends. None of them were perfect, but it was the kind of relationship that you’d want to have in your life. Her family reminded me of mine — the father’s quiet strength, the mother’s louder personality and a close relationship with the brother. I especially loved the Francesca’s relationship with her dad — flawed and very realistic, and it was one of the things that made me shed a tear or two. :)

I especially loved her friends, and the author had their interactions done pat. I loved every bus scene where they’d argue and pretend not to be friends, I loved every time one character would invite himself over to dinner. I found it really nice when the girls would hang out and watch Pride and Prejudice and eat Oreos and Pringles. Like Aaron, I loved that scene in Francesca’s bedroom after a particularly emotional moment in the book. Like everyone else, too, I wanted to be a part of that group, to ride the bus with them and see them everyday in school and joke with them and all that.

Hm, you know what? Francesca’s friends remind me of my own too. We weren’t exactly all friends from school or did we bond over bus rides, but I can’t help but think of them as I think about the characters in the book.  :) Look at us here:

My achieving friends and I at my brother’s wedding :)

It must be noted, too, that I was very thrilled when I read about the Filipino character in the book, Eva Rodriguez. And even if she wasn’t really a part of the main group, I liked that she was present there every now and then. :)

Saving Francesca is a very, very good book about family, friendships and identity. I loved every bit of it — as if it wasn’t that obvious from all my gushing. :) I cannot wait to read more of Marchetta’s books. This is definitely one great contemporary YA novel that I would keep on my shelf and revisit every now and then. :)

Rating: [rating=5]

2011 Challenge Status:
7 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Will-Power? What Will-Power?)

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Guy Gone Geek
Steph Su Reads