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Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Okay, so there are two plot devices that authors use that drive me crazy (I’m sure there are many, many more than two, but for the sake of this review, let’s just call it two): prophetic dreams and leaving the reader to guess what’s happening in the context of a novel. Drives me crazy.

Marchetta uses them both in this Printz Award winning novel and they almost made me put the book down for good.

But, I know that this is on a certain well-read and well-respected co-blogger’s fav of all time list (see 5 More Views From the Peanut Gallery, below), so I trudged through the first couple of chapters, annoyed that I felt so lost and rolling my eyes at the dreams with the boy in the tree.

Then, without warning, I was sucked in for good. No looking back. And I’m so glad I was.

Jellicoe Road revolves around main character Taylor Markham, who is being groomed to lead her school in the secret territory wars of the region - and when I say revolve, be prepared to be dizzy. The cast is large and very inter-involved (not incestuous, per se, more small-townish). When Taylor was eleven, her mom dumped her off at a 7-11 on Jellicoe Road, the same road that more than twenty years earlier was the site of a horrific car accident that took many lives. Now she has to deal with the consequences of the dumping, and the accident.

The novel unfolds beautifully, intersecting the lives of the survivors of that long-ago accident, Taylor’s struggles with hope and her identity, and the lives and loves of Taylor’s boarding school, Townie, and Cadet peers. And although feeling lost is inevitable at first, the book flies by at such a rollicking pace that you won’t know what hit you until you are sobbing into your milk and cookies from the halfway point on.

Marchetta is a masterful storyteller and her writing is beautiful, haunting and real. Her characters are almost all messed up, but all clinging to hope. They successfully find it within themselves, within one another. Without a doubt this is one of the very best books, YA or otherwise, I have ever read. A stunning read that should not be missing from any YA reader’s bookshelf.

Star Rating: ****

But don't just take my word for it - here's five more views from the Peanut Gallery courtesy of my co-blogger Kirsten Hubbard:

1. It drove me a little crazy to be so lost at the beginning of the story. But I did finally catch on and I was so proud when I knew three of the five without a doubt and the other two . . . I was pretty sure who they were. How long did it take you to catch on and were you as crazy as I was before that point?

Absolutely. But I'd read about the slow beginning in a YA YA YAs post, and her glowing review inspired me to stick with it. I definitely figured out a couple of the mysteries long before they were revealed, but others surprised me. And the book is packed with them.

2. I was struck by how much Marchetta made me care about her characters. What is it, do you think, about her story that makes the reader care so much?

They were just so real -- profoundly flawed, unique, and yet utterly relatable.

3. Did you just love Taylor’s romance like I did? It was so meant to be, wasn’t it? *giddy giggle*

Oh man. My stomach flips just thinking about it. It was so gradual, and so intense... all that history they had buzzing between them in every exchange they had. I can't think of any YA romance I enjoyed more. In fact, as I write this, can't think of any YA book I enjoyed more than Jellicoe Road.

4. My favorite part of the story (I think!) is when Griggs reveals his true reason for being at the train station. Oh, my little heart just broke! What was your favorite?

I have to agree. I had absolutely no idea. It floored me -- and yet, made perfect sense, which is an ideal every author should strive to meet.

5. Are you in a House, a Townie, or a Cadet?

I've thought about this a lot over the last couple days, and I'm still uncertain. If pressed, I'd be a student. I don't have a home base to which I belong, like the Townies, and I definitely don't work well under regimented authority like the Cadets. Just ask my high school teachers.

Thanks for the insight, Kirsten!
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. Darn you, Seoul! *shakes fist*

    I need to find this book! Maybe tomorrow's trek to the only decent English bookstore on the other side of the city will lead to Jellicoe Road.

    Thanks for the awesome review!

  2. Thanks to you too, Kristin! A review that does this beautiful book justice. Believe the hype -- once you plug through the confusion, the rewards are trillionfold.

  3. This definitely goes on my list of things I need to read!

    Thanks for the review, Kristin:)

  4. I thought this book was stupid, but don't take it personally. It is nothing like Looking for Alibrandi, her first and best. Nothing like school in Australia really.
    Is it uncool to disagree with reviews? Please ignore if so, just my two cents worth.


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Item Reviewed: Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook