Book: On the Jellicoe Road
Author/Authoress: Melina Marchetta
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.