Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Words cannot describe how much I love Jellicoe Road. It is simply unbelievable. The plot is difficult to summarize without giving anything away. Basically, Taylor Markham, a senior at a boarding school, is selected to be the school leader. As such, she represents her school in the annual territory wars between the Townies, the boarding school, and the Cadets (a group of military schoolkids who camp nearby for 6 weeks). The leader of the Cadets is Jonah Griggs, a boy with whom Taylor has a difficult history. While the war is going on, Taylor is worrying about the disappearance of Hannah, the house mother who looks after her. Hannah has left behind a manuscript telling a tale of five kids who were brought together under horrible circumstances and were the best of friends. Everything collides as Taylor tries to manage the war, find Hannah, and delve into the manuscript. More than plot, Jellicoe Road is about themes: love, loss, pain, loneliness, and more.
When you begin reading Jellicoe Road, you will not understand what's going on. It will seem confusing, frustrating, and somewhat uninteresting. Be patient. It will make sense eventually. The book actually took me two tries to get through. The first try, I read about 60 pages but just didn't have the time to devote to the book. I only picked it up again, because everyone raved about it. I pushed through the confusion and am so happy that I stuck with it. I would recommend not reading this until you really have time to be patient. Otherwise, it won't work.
As soon as I finished the book, I started re-reading it again. It's very rare that a book affects me so strongly that I simply have to re-read it immediately. The second time around, everything made sense. You really understand the genius of Marchetta's prose. Every sentence, ever word in this book is important. What seems pointless at the beginning is a little hint to the bigger picture.
Taylor is a wonderful character. She is hard and unlikable on the surface, but with the reader's insight into her thoughts, you can't help but love her. She is horribly damaged - longing to love and be loved but not willing to trust anyone. Jonah is basically a male version of Taylor. He's built up walls to shield him from everyone who's hurt him in his past. Their relationship is one of the best depictions of passion and romance that I've read in a long time. You don't read their professions of undying love; instead, you feel it. Marchetta has mastered the art of showing, not telling. All the other characters, Chaz, Ben, Richard, Raffey, Hannah, Webb, Narnie, Tate, Jude, Fitz, the Brigadier, Jessa, and more are fully described. You get the feel of who they are and how they contribute to the story. It's simply stunning how she put everything together.
One of my favorite things about Jellicoe Road is its intelligence. This is definitely not an easy book to read. I love that Marchetta did not attempt to dumb the book down to appeal to a wide audience. It's so tempting to make a book full of action and light on characters to suck readers in. These books aren't bad, but just don't take you to the level that a book as complex as Jellicoe Road does. Jellicoe Road is like a square of 85% dark chocolate whereas most YA books are like a bag of M&Ms. The M&Ms are delicious, sweet, and addictive. Fine dark chocolate is bitter, hard to taste at first, but if you leave it on your tongue long enough, you'll savor the subtle sweetness; ultimately, it satisfies you much more than the M&Ms.
Rating: 5 / 5