Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
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 is 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.
Here is a recap:
Taylor Markham arrived at the Jellicoe School when she was eleven years old after being abandoned by her mother at a Seven Eleven down the road. Now six years later, Hannah, the woman who rescued her, has disappeared leaving no information as to her whereabouts. A desperate Taylor searches for her old friend, finding a strange web of clues in a manuscript Hannah left behind; one that tells the story of a group of kids who grew up on Jellicoe Road many years earlier.
This summer, Taylor is the Jellicoe’s leader during their annual territory wars (sort of like Capture the Flag, minus the flag) with the Townies (kids from town) and the Cadets (guys from Sydney who are involved in military-style training). The wars are extremely hostile, with rigid penalties for crossing into enemy borders including loss of territories, non-violent combat (unless you count some finger smashing) and losing major face with their peers.
Jonah Griggs is the leader of the Cadets. He and Taylor met three years earlier when she ran away from home in search of her mother. Jonah was at the same train station and the two of them embarked on a journey until, while her goal was possibly minutes away, Jonah called the school and turned them in. Upon his return, Jonah is anything but apologetic. And oh baby, the relationship between these two, though it has many moments of sheer swoon, overflows with tension. Jonah has a painful past but underneath his tough exterior is a boy who is struggling with guilt over his own past. He has an intensity and a discipline about him and a deep affection for the girl who believes he betrayed her all those years ago.
“Jonah Griggs is a tank. His face is blunter, meaner than I remember. Hair cropped. Eyes cold. Arms folded. He has perfected the art of looking straight at someone while avoiding eye contact.”
Taylor is a fierce character who has both strength and a soft vulnerability to her. She misses Hannah, she misses her mother and she has a deep need to belong. She doesn’t convey this in the weak-minded ways typical to many teenage girls but in the painfully honest way she lives and in her refusal to allow herself to be too close to anyone else. As she studies Hannah’s story, she begins to see it’s connected to her own life and she becomes obsessed with digging deeper.
Oh lordy do I love this book. I mean I loooooove it. I have nothing but praise for it and for the author who put it down on paper.
Melina Marchetta is a true story-teller. She transported me to the Jellicoe School and into the very heart of Taylor with the ease and poetic flow of her prose. Because there are two stories being told— Taylor’s and the kids in the manuscript— the sheer volume of names can be a bit confusing at first, but in the end all the ideas come together to form one beautiful, masterfully told tale. The characters leap off the page so that they’re practically standing before you passionately and sometimes tearfully proclaiming their story and calling you back to them when you close that cover at the end of the day.
“I watch Raffy’s mother standing behind her chair, holding onto Raffy’s long hair as if putting it into a ponytail and there’s this pride on her face while she’s touching her, like she’s saying,’Look at my beautiful girl.’ It makes my eyes fill with tears and I quickly brush them away but as usual Jonah Griggs is looking and I want to melt into the ground and have the nightie cover the insignificant puddle that is me. It’s not that I miss my mother. It’s just that I miss the idea of what one would be.”
To put it quite simply, I’d read anything by Marchetta because Jellicoe Road was that incredible. It’s not about merely being a fantastic, well-written story, it’s about touching a nerve so deep that while I read it my heart ached for the characters and when I put it down, I was never truly finished with it.
Crush Intensity: 5/5 Um, have I not made it clear? I freaking love the pants off this book.
The Way I See It:
Would you look at Lily Collins (The Blind Side)? She is Taylor Markham in my head. No question about it. I see her fighting those Townies and Cadets, climbing the Prayer Tree and risking everything for a little bit of happiness. She is totally hired for my fake movie. Bring on the fake contract.
Rafi Gavron (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) is my image of Jonah, the guy who is swoony without all the normal romantic crap like songs, poems and letters, but he does it with his pure, intense devotion to Taylor.
Soundtrack: Hmm…anything by Kenny Rogers? Or this…