Dusted off from the backshelf today is a YA contemporary classic – Jellicoe Road.
Backshelf Book Reviews
Backshelf Book Reviews is an RBR original feature that in which I FINALLY get around to books we’ve been meaning to read for like ever. I take suggestions, so please leave some in the comments!
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Title & Author: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: August 28th, 2006
How I Got the Book: Gifted
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.”
I’ve actually read 3 of Marchetta’s other books (Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca and Finnikin of the Rock) and completely loved them all. Why I let Jellicoe Road drown in the sea of my TBR pile, I have no idea.
Thanks to a new friend, I was gifted Jellicoe Road and let that be the push I needed to get it together.
I’m not sure how she does it, but in each of her books Marchetta draws from deep emotional reservoirs and pours out feeling and rawness into each of her books. This book is no different.
Taylor has been abandoned by her family to the Jellicoe School. The only person she can rely on has disappeared and she’s left to face the responsibility and burden of the yearly territory wars with the Townies and Cadets. As she searches for her missing friend, she uncovers more than she imagined about herself and her family…
Jellicoe Road is a very disorienting book to read at first. It’s told from Taylor’s point of view but also includes bits and pieces of another story (set in italics, so you can keep them separate). But it’s confusing at first, and I got lost a bit trying to figure out what was going on.
Then the book is set in Austrailia, so there’s some different phrases that caught me off guard. Plus add on terms like Townies (rich kids from their town) and Cadets (basically ROTC types) and the weird rivalry that takes place between Jellicoe students and them.
I was frustrated a lot at first because I wanted to just dig in. This book does not let you sink into itself. You have to fight for comprehension (which when it does come is swift) and then you realize each page is taking you further and further into a unique and surprising place.
I’m not sure how she does it, but Marchetta guided me to these dark places and hit me with powerful punch lines that bruised me and yet I never felt weighed down by her words. Instead they lift up and cast light on the darkness.
Readers might also appreciate that the book does include a romance but not at the cost of the plot. It’s barely even used to cause tension, and yet its a strong point in the story. I loved rooting for this couple!
I loved the sense of discovery. Taylor learned about herself and hidden history that shaped her and reformed her. And even if you feel you’ve lived a blessed/privileged life, the story’s still so relatable because boiled down it’s about figuring out the person you want to be and not letting your baggage and struggles get in the way of that.
If you’re ready for an emotional journey with a deep, brooding mystery then buckle up. Jellicoe Road packs a pleasant punch you’ll be sore but thankful for days later – so very much recommended.