Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: March 9th 2010 by HarperTeen (first published August 28th 2006)
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.
I did not love it right away. I was confused at first. I did not understand the territory wars, the Houses and the main character. But as I read on, I came to know what was so great about this book that a lot of people love.
Let me start with the main character: Taylor Markham. She's not easy to like. She's a disturbed teenager with no clear memory of her past. She has major issues about herself and her relationships with the people around her. She's sometimes selfish and aloof. She's fucked-up. Big time. I'm even amazed at the fact the kids in her House worries about and still looks up at her even though she treats them with indifference bordering on neglect. But if there are a few things I like about her, they're her determination to find answers herself and her sense of independence.
The other characters are okay. I like Raffaela's concern for Taylor. She's a faithful and reliable friend, one Taylor needs so badly. She puts up with Taylor's crap and remains beside her all the way. Ben Cassidy's my favorite character. He's funny and kind. I think half the time that I laughed while reading Jellicoe Road was because of Ben's witty comebacks. I also love his banter with Jonah every time he makes him jealous. Santangelo is somewhat frustrating. The tension between him and Raffy is so palpable that I don't understand why they're not together. And Jonah. Jonah freaking Griggs. He's not your typical swoon-worthy YA bad boy. But I also love his character, his complication, the way he cares for Taylor, his angst. I find their relationship cute even when they're so close to killing each other that I can't help grinning stupidly on mushy scenes. *wink*
And now, the story. I like the way Marchetta wrote this book. The build-up of suspense, the way and timing she threw things at me, the quirky dialogue, the connection between the past and the present that's so essential to the story. Reading this book is an emotional roller-coaster for me. One moment I was crying then the next I was laughing. It was heart-wrenching. I felt the characters' sadness, grief and regrets. I cried when Fitz told Jude what happened to Webb. I cried when Tate read to Narnie to keep her alive. I cried when Taylor discovered her link to the past. I cried when Narnie told the reason why she couldn't move inside the car that night. I cried at the revelations. There were a lot of "I knew it!" moments and pleasant - and sometimes unpleasant - surprises. It's like everything and everyone's entangled in a huge web of mysteries and secrets.
Jellicoe Road is not a happy book. It's a story about friendship, love, loss, redemption, forgiveness and salvation. Fitz saved Narnie and Webb and Tate. Narnie saved Webb from further heartbreak. Jude saved Narnie and Taylor and Jonah. Jonah and Taylor saved each other. And at the end, Webb saved Fitz from his guilt.
You know how when sometimes you wish things happened differently because that way, life would have been happier? I wish Fitz did not come back for the fifth tin that day. I wish Tate was stronger. I wish Taylor's mother did not leave her. But then, the story would have been different, right? It wouldn't be the one that I love, so even though it broke my heart, I'm happy Melina Marchetta wrote Jellicoe Road the way it is.
"Any pain inflicted on Richard warms my heart and it warms yours as well. Go on, admit it. When he hit the ground and the blood went flying and you knew in your heart his nose was broken, didn't you just want to jump for joy and stomp on his ugly face?"
This is what I know. I look like my father. My father disappeared when he was seventeen years old. Hannah once told me that there is something unnatural about being older than your father ever got to be. When you can say that at the age of seventeen, it's a different kind of devastating.
"You should be worried," Ben says. "Because you're going out with that chick and Raff will go out with some guy and you'll spend the whole time with this 'thing' hovering between you and then you'll get married to other people and one day when you're middle-aged in your thirties, while both your kids are going to the same school, you're going to have this affair because of all the pent-up attraction and ruin the lives of everyone in the P and F."
"Your friends are freaks," Santangelo tells Raffy when she re-joins us.
"Chaz, I've always had freaks for friends. You should know that."