On The Jellicoe Road: A Book Review

Book: On the Jellicoe Road

Author/Authoress: Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road

Cover: 4/5

Plot: 5/5

 Blurb:

I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago. Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again. And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

My thoughts:

If you thought-even for a second- that it was impossible for a single book to be light-hearted and mysteriously dark and emotional, then you need to read this book just to prove yourself wrong. The book starts off with a fun and frivolous rivalry between three groups of teenagers; the students from the Jellicoe School, the Cadets and the Townies. The three groups negotiate with each other so seriously and solemnly for land access, return of hostages and so earnestly declare ‘war’ on each other, it’s impossible not to get drawn in. Throughout all the skirmishes and pranks, the characters come up with such sharp, witty remarks it’s impossible not to fall head over heels for them.

Melina Marchetta introduces another dimension to this book by bringing in the histories and backstories of all of the characters. The leaders of the three opposing factions somehow bind together to become a group of five. Together, they figure out the tragic and beautiful story of a group of five friends who fell apart when a member died. As the story winds together the teens figure out just how entrenched the story is in their pasts. This book is about past and present colliding and of figuring out how history can shape your story. It’s about how things get lost in interpretation (or should I say, misinterpretation?) and figuring out how everyone belongs.

Characters: 5/5

The characters in this book wrung me out, stamped all over my heart and ultimately broke it. I guess I have some masochistic tendencies because I went back to this book over and over again. And every time I had a reaction just as intense (if not more so) than the previous time.

I don’t know when it happened-maybe it was the very first page or maybe it was somewhere further along the book- but a part of my heart was relinquished to Taylor. I think these two quotes do a brilliant job of describing what Taylor wants:

“I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking.”

“‘What do you want from me?’ he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.”

Taylor is abandoned over and over again. First by her mother at a petrol pump and then by her closest confident and mentor, Hannah in her very own backyard. When they leave she becomes closed off and cynical. She becomes depressed and even slightly suicidal. She’s nowhere near perfect but maybe that was part of the draw. The pain is often overdone in YA and maybe it was here too. But her pain was so honest and raw, it actually hurt me.

Fear not! Taylor did not spend this book as a mourning and abandoned vegetable (Yes Bella, I’m looking at you). Taylor had a strong support system and she- I wouldn’t say she got over it- but she functioned admirably; she lead her school in the ‘war’, was an admirable house leader and made a bunch of hilarious quips. By the time I was done with the book, I was attached to her like…like a suction cup on glass.

Ben, Anson Choi, Raffaela, Santiago, Jenna. They form the support system and they were just so witty and profound and multi-dimensional, I kind of fell in love with them. The unnamed girl with the eyebrow piercing deserves a special mention too.

Romance: 5/5

Jonah Griggs is bad. Like killed-his-father bad (don’t worry it was self-defence) He’s as disciplined and tough as hell but he’s a softie (especially when it comes to Taylor). He’s intense without being melodramatic…and I’m doing a terrible job explaining him. The goodness of Jonah Griggs cannot be described in a paragraph. Let me just say that Jonah is not the kind of guy you let into your heart- no, he’s the kind of guy who just walks in without an invitation but with so much panache that you don’t mind.

Plotholes: 4.5/5

It took me a while to get into the rhythm of Melina Marchetta’s writing. I was a bit confused with the italic parts and how that story tied in with the rest of the story. But the story unfolds really nicely once you get into the flow of it.

Overall Review: 5/5

I’ve done a terrible job explaining this book but it’s not completely my fault. This book is a literary masterpiece and you should read it. Right now. In fact maybe you shouldn’t even have read the review cause I have the sinking suspicion that this is the type of book best enjoyed when you know nothing about it.

White Lines

Currently Reading

Book: White Lines
Author: Tracy Brown

White Lines

How Much I’m Done With: 164/497 pages (33%)

Why I Picked It Up:
It was an  accident. An honest-do-goodness accident. I was actually looking for a book by the same name by Jennifer Banash. However even after I realised my mistake, I continued reading simply because of the super high rating goodreads ( 4.49/5 which is astronomically high).

Blurb:
Jada left home at the age of sixteen, running from her own demons and the horrors of physical abuse inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend. She partied hard, and life seemed good when she was with Born, the neighborhood kingpin whose name was synonymous with money, power, and respect. But all his love couldn’t save her from a crack addiction. Jada goes from crack addict and prostitute to survivor and back again before she finds the strength to live for herself and come out on top. And her stormy romance with one of the fiercest hustlers on the streets makes White Lines one of the most unforgettable urban loves stories of the year.

My Thoughts So Far:
So far, the book seems unnecessarily long. The main message is ‘Just say no to drugs. They hurt everybody.’ but Tracy Brown spends an inordinate amount of time describing the poverty, violence and vulgarity of the seedy areas of Brooklyn and nearby places. I guess it’s important but neither the setting nor the characters captured my imagination or made me invest in them. The detailed description of the drug business was uncomfortable the first time but by the seventh or eight time, I was desensitised to it and it almost seemed repetitive. And trust me, desensitisation is never a good thing for books; especially when an author wants to show just how terrible it is.

Another thing that bugs me about this book is that all of the characters seem to lack something vital to every human being- a conscience. They never seem to regret the fact that they have murdered and left a path of destruction behind them or that their wealth has been derived from murders and violent acts. I don’t know if she based her characters on stereotypes or if the present-day stereotypes were formed based on the actions of black gangsters in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but to me these characters seem laughably cookie-cutter and unbelievable. Of course, you should keep in mind that I’ve never actually experienced or seen this much poverty and addiction so I can’t really say what a person like Jada or Born would think or act like.

The writing makes this book even more annoying to read. This is a textbook example of telling instead of showing (and we all know how that hurts a book’s enjoyability). Also, there is way too much cussing in this book. I’m not that sensitive about swearing in books but I maxed out my limit in this one. I have yet to come across a page in this book that does not feature a three letter, four letter or five letter curse word (or several). I can appreciate a well-placed curse word but when these words are repeated so many times, I lose faith in the vocabulary abilities of the author/characters.

Continue reading?: No. This is a definite and irrevocable no. While I thought the basis of the storyline was quite good, the execution of the idea was…lacking.

 

Shortening My Posts

Mmmhmm, it’s true. I’m planning to make my posts shorter. There are a lot of reasons for this.

Someone recently told me that I needed to ‘declutter’ my writing. Ouch!- that hurt but I have to agree that it’s true. I looked back at my writing (and I found myself cringing at certain points). Let me just say there are a lot of rants and rambles.  The most effective way I can think of to ‘declutter’ my writing is to impose a word limit (say, under 800 words) and stick to it, cutting out everything that is unnecessary.

I write for myself but I want my content to be read by others too. Is that oxymoronic and hypocritical? I highly doubt it. After all, we all want a little bit of appreciation when we do the things we love. It’s a well known fact that blog posts over a 1000 words are wwaaayyy too long and that most people automatically ignore or (worse) just skim over such posts. So I have to face the fact that if I want to get people to actually read my reviews, I have to shorten them a bit.

This whole shortening posts is for me too. I’m trying to improve my writing. Sweet and succinct is something to strive for. So I’m going to strive for it.  I think we’d all agree that quality wins over quantity any day.

I’m going to somewhat ignore what I just wrote up there in the last sentence. I may- emphasis on may (I don’t want to promise anything because I really, really hate breaking promises)-be able to review more books. After all, it’s not like I don’t already have dozens of books that I’ve already read queued up just waiting to be reviewed.

So here’s to a larger number of shorter, sweeter reviews. Wish me luck, guys. 

Do You Choose Dare or Dare: Posting My Original Story

It seems that everyone is doing this and I have to say, it seems like a whole lot of fun. So what is this mysterious ‘this’ that I’m talking about? It’s an original story.

Yes! You read it right. I’m writing an original story. It’s a young adult contemporary fiction (what else could it be) called” Do You Choose Dare or Dare?”. I’ve posted the first chapter on wattpad already.  Here’s the intro:

RULE 1 : TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE DARE OR DARE CLUB, ONE MUST ISSUE A CHALLENGE TO THE CLUB.

RULE 26: ONCE A DARE IS GIVEN, THE CHALLENGER MUST ACCEPT IT OT HE MUST FORFEIT.

RULE 46: A DARE ACCEPTED IS A DARE DONE. IT CAN HAPPEN NO OTHER WAY. 

RULE 72: ANY SORT OF RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A CHALLENGER WHETHER ROMANTIC, FAMILIAL OR PLATONIC, IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN FOR THE ENTIRE DURATION OF THE CHALLENGE.

-EXTRACTS TAKEN FROM THE ‘HEDGEWOOD HIGH’S DARE OR HANDBOOK’.

Hayley Burns is the newest challenger of the Dare or Dare Club. Only problem: She’s afraid of everything. Join Hayley in overcoming fears, facing dares, finding family and maybe even… love?

Do me a huge favour, and read it. Do me an even huger favour and tell me what you think about it. You have no idea (or maybe you do) how much it would mean to me.

So go ahead and check it out over here – http://www.wattpad.com/60575790-do-you-choose-dare-or-dare

Corrine Jackson: Crazy…But in A Good Way or Bad Way?

Corrine JacksonAuthor: Corrine Jackson
Where From: Haxton, Colorado, Untied States of America
Books: If I Lie, The Sense Thieves trilogy (TouchedPushed and Ignited)
Awards: If I Lie is on the ALA Rainbow List, 2014

If I Lie:

If I Lie

Blurb: Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise

My thoughts:
This book was a very emotional one. Not only is it a story about bearing burdens, guilt and the knowledge of the real truth. It’s about facing shame, anger and the fact that you may have damaged a bond that was supposed to be unbreakable Quinn lives in a town where practically everybody is either military or related to someone in the military. They know what it’s like to be in a war-zone in constant peril and wonder if your life at home remains waiting for you. And they can’t tolerate the people who can’t cope with a husband or boyfriend who’s away. So when Quinn cheats on her boyfriend and a picture of it goes viral, she is ostracized by the town who is aghast that she was disloyal to the ‘town hero’. But she didn’t cheat on Carey. Not really. However, she can’t bring herself to tell anyone that she didn’t because if she did that, she would have to reveal the fact that Carey was gay. And there’s not a lot of respect in the military for gay people.

At the same time, she has to cope with the abandonment . She caught her mother cheating on her father and told him.  Her mother dropped her off at her grandparents house and left. The book If I Lie is about torn families, friendship, and the army; it is also a story about hope and perseverance and the ability to find strength and courage even in the darkest of times.

Sense Thieves trilogy: Touched, Pushed, Ignited

Summary: Remy O’Malley is different. She can heal people. You would think that would be great except every time she heals someone, she absorbs their injuries into her own body. Only when she arrives Blackwell Falls does she realize just what she is. She’s hunted –  both by Healers and Protectors, because she’s half of both and she’s got  the best of both worlds. She needs to be exceptionally strong –  both physically and mentally – if she wants to acquire a stable life. This is her story.

My thoughts:

Touched: I liked the first book even though at points it resembled a fanfic with huge parts of it based on angst and abuse (trust me, fanfiction frequently overoses on angst, trauma, abuse and all sorts of clichés). But Remy was a paradoxical character who while physically weak had a great deal of mental strength. The take on healing abilities was new and innovative and the romance was relatively simple and uncomplicated. As was the enemy. On the whole this book was imaginative, simple and sweet in certain places.

Pushed: Boy,was I surprised by the next book- in a good way. It lightened up on the angst and self-pity but the plot became increasingly more complex. A love triangle was introduced. But don’t worry; it was the good kind. Remy and Gabe develop feelings for each other in a gradual way, bonded by a shared loss.  At the end of the book it was not at all obvious who she was going to choose because both men (yes men, not boys) had their strong points but didn’t fall into the cliché good guy and bad boy roles. The enemy in this one was more complex as well. You don’t find out who he is until the middle of the book and even then it’s possible to say that he is more passionate about his cause than evil. But you won’t walk away from the book thinking that.

Ignited: As far as conclusions to trilogies go, I think this is as good as it gets. This book was my favourite one. The ending was surprising but not completely unexpected if you paid attention to the foreshadowing in the previous books. In this book Remy struggles to keep her mental strength as tense arguments arise, the stakes change and awkward moments abound amongst her allies. At the same time she has to keep herself focused on defeating the enemy from the second book (I’d tell you who he is, but it would spoil the second book beyond reading) and detangling herself from her complicated love-life. At the end of the book, we don’t get a perfect ending. But it comes pretty damn close.

So if Corrine Jackson is crazy, it’s definitely in a good way. I’m planning to read her next book as soon as it comes out.