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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
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's 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.

Why I read this book: I had found a lot of recommendations for the book and thought it sounded interesting. I checked out some reviews on Goodreads and instantly decided to buy the book, a choice I’m glad.
How did I get the book: Bought
In Jellicoe Road, Taylor Markham attends The Jellicoe School, a school for juvenile delinquents and more (including four arsonists in Taylor’s house alone) in Australia. The school commences territory wars each year with the in-town Townies and visiting military school member Cadets.  In her junior year, Taylor is assigned to be the head of the Underground Community, as it is called, and lead Jellicoe in the battle wars.
That’s the basics of the story – but there is so much more. Taylor’s story is interspersed with another tale, one that takes place eighteen years earlier and involves five teenagers—Webb, Fitz, Jude, Narnie, and Tate-- and their plans. I’m afraid I can’t say much about the tale due to spoilers, but it unfolds through excerpts from a manuscript about the story. Occasionally the jump cuts between Taylor and Webb & Co.’s story were a bit abrupt, but they were seamed together very well.
Taylor’s character was spot-on. She was honest, angry, tough, but very kind. Marchetta drew her character in an elegant way, showcasing every side of Taylor in a fascinating way. Occasionally it would seem as if Taylor would only ever cry – but for good reasons. Jonah is another example of a great character. When I first saw the summary, and started to read, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes. He seemed like just another angst-driven teen who falls in love with the MC. But he is much, much more, and I think that he is less of a love interest then a friend. Romance isn’t the key part of the novel, either, and the true romance happens late in the book.
The supporting characters were just as wonderful --  Hannah and Jessa both could be annoying but sweet, Chloe P was the cutest girl, and Chaz was charming and his friendship with Raffy perfect. I cannt honestly say anything better about these characters, but they are wonderful and fascinating and potrayed well.
Webb & Co were also lovely, though I shall remain from discussing their personalities in depth.
The plot was fantastic. At the beginning, the reader is entirely confused, as the stories are meshed together rather quickly. It can be confusing and bewildering, as a lot of information is wrested on you in the first few chapters. It’s not an info- dump, however, but more a wave of confusion and you must piece together the pieces.
The territory wars end in the middle of the book, but there is a good reason why. Really, there is a reason for everything, every character, every plot point, every setting and detail and example. Marchetta does an excellent job putting together the pieces, and what more could one ask for in a mystery novel?
The setting is well portrayed, though I wanted to know more about what the houses look like. The inside wasn’t described much, but I did get a clear view of the trails and woods surrounding Jellicoe. And the road, I think, is the most important part of the entire book. Jellicoe Road, I’ll admit, is the first book I’ve read where it makes sense to have a flower on the cover.
Taylor’s story kept me gripped, and I read the nearly 400 pages in a day. The story moves quickly, and there is plenty of romance, drama, excitement, and mystery to satisfy nearly any reader. I would recommend the story for all interested in romance, mystery, drama, and plenty of excitement.
The story is a bit like the Jellicoe Road: long and winding and confusing on your first drive down, but as you continue on it becomes clearer and clearer. Stick with the story, and you will always remember Taylor and Jonah and Chloe P and Jessa and Hannah and Webb and Fitz and Tate and Narnie and Jude and Raffy and everyone else. Because a trip down the Jellicoe Road is one of the greatest trips you will ever make.
5 stars. Absolutely recommended.

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