by Melina Marchetta
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Summary: Things seem to just happen to Taylor Markham. She is seventeen and living at boarding school because her mother abandoned her. When she reluctantly becomes the leader of the territory wars between the Cadets and the Townies, Hannah, the only seemingly trusted adult she confides in is suddenly just…gone. She doesn’t like her position in any of it, especially when she sees the leader of the opposing Cadets, Jonah Griggs. His leadership brings out the worst in her and they will be spending a LOT of time together. As the summer unfolds, Taylor is forced to grapple with more questions until she starts to push back to discover the answers she has long searched for.
This is my first experience with Melina Marchetta and I do not often dive into YA fiction. Marchetta intricately (and brilliantly at times) weaves past, present and sometimes even dreams together. The text flips between plain and italicized sections, present and future, reality and dream sequences.
This complexity is what shows the expertise of Marchetta but at times it was so confusing! Continually reading the jacket description kept me moving forward in the story (because it sounded intriguing and straight forward on the jacket!) but the storyline jumped around so much it was difficult keeping things in order. After discussing the story with our book club, I concluded that I felt the sense of place lacking. The sense of place might have grounded the context of the big story.
Secondly, I felt the characters weren’t developed enough to differentiate them well. The story follows 5 kids on Jellicoe Road and since some of their names were nicknames or gender neutral, I kept getting them confused. (Wait, was this the sister? Or his girlfriend?? Oh wait, that’s a BOY not a girl??? Ugh!) Sometimes, Marchetta would differentiate using italics but sometimes she wouldn’t. (One reviewer said she listened to this on audio and she really didn’t like it for this reason. It was SO HARD to tell characters-and narrators-apart from each other. I can completely understand this would make the story even harder to follow).
Jellicoe Road weaves together an amazing story and ties up loose ends, which I appreciate. Marchetta’s characters are flawed making them believable, the dialogue was good, and (appropriately) they didn’t necessarily finish “happily ever after.” The book does address some pretty intense and adult themes but the desire to solve the puzzle made it a great page turner. Finally, deep loss permeated Taylor’s story but I also loved how the author addresses the importance of how and from whom we can receive love.
Do you have a favorite YA fiction book? What was the toughest thing you had to experience in high school?
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