May 19, 2012

Review: Jellicoe Road

By: Melina Marchetta
Published: August 2008 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardback, 419 pages
First Reviewed: July 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Listen up, people! This is exactly why you listen to friends who you trust when it comes to books. Jellicoe Road has been on my bookshelf for a long time. I think I got it using a giftcard for Barnes and Noble over a year ago. Yeah, uh huh, yeah. Stupid me. And then my friend, Marisa, goes and yells at me to read it now! So I moved it up...and...YES! Yes, yes, yes! Another book to add to my favorite's shelf. This story was absolutely beautiful and amazing and incredible and heart-wrenching and everything in between. It was nothing at all like I expected, yet everything I expected and more. If that makes any sense...even if it doesn't, read on...

Okay, so, Marchetta is Australian, which automatically makes her cooler than non-Australian authors. Sorry everyone else, it's just the way it is. There's something more raw about Australian writing, at least out of the few I've read, and I can't appreciate it more. For example, when American books involve cussing, I'm usually cringing, but when Australian authors do it, it's so natural to the book and characters that I don't think twice about it. (By the way, the cussing isn't a lot; it's just the best example for me to come up with.)

Anyway, this book had some of the best opening lines ever, so I have to share:
My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.
I counted.
And it didn't stop there. That intriguing tone and feel stayed throughout this entire book. Marchetta has a gift, and that's being able to combine mystery with contemporary in a way that keeps non-mystery lovers and non-general fiction lovers locked in the pages. With beautiful prose, Marchetta took me on a powerful ride through not only Taylor's life, but past lives of others as well. There was just this...amazing quality and maturity to the narrative that we just don't get very often, and I absolutely loved it. What I also loved was her ability to connect things without them being "BAM! In your face!" connections. Some were, obviously, but others were subtle, and I bet there are more I missed that I'll need to catch on a re-read. And I absolutely loved her use of framing.

I only have a few nitpicks: Found a couple errors (not the Aussie/American differences, mind you; those where very interesting), so ahem--editors, Marchetta got a little adverb-happy on me when she didn't need to (her prose and descriptions and details are wonderful enough), and there were times where I felt she could have given a tad bit more emotion to Taylor instead of just making her cry. But, honestly, that last one was only a time or two, and the other two don't really even matter because Marchetta has incredible skills. I. Am. Jealous. Jealous, I say! Even more of a reason for why I want to be Australian...just saying.

The characters, you ask? Um, what? WHAT?! Excuse me while I go run around to express my love for Marchetta's characterization. Not only did she stray from those commercial, "Woe is me, help me, I'm broken," characters, she created modern, realistic people, who walked incredibly different lives than most other characters in books. AND, listen here, she gave us characters (teens) from the eighties as well. You know, the group of friends that you watch in movies and wish you could have been born back then so your childhood/teen years would have been like that? Where their bonds run so deep? Yeah, she developed the (excuse the languages; it's necessary) hell out of those teens.

All right, I'll start off with Taylor. I loved her. That's really all there is to say. She was strong, feisty, but still an emotional, hormonal girl. And not in the way that most other authors show emotional, hormonal girls, either. I mean, she wasn't afraid to show her emotions once they came flooding back the first time after years, which was completely believable, and she also was an uncanny girl, having mood swings where most of us girls would. Perfect. Spot on. Never annoying, never unrealistic, and never unnecessary. One of my favorite leads.

Then we have Griggs and Santangelo. A romantic in a non-outwardly way love interest and one I couldn't help but fall in love with respectively. I loved them both, actually, but I think Santangelo was my favorite, but shush, don't tell Griggs. Anyhow, these two, along with Taylor and friend Raffy, were like four incredibly different puzzle pieces that don't look like they could fit together at all, but they do. And Marchetta was a mastermind when it came to developing their frienemy relationships.

And I have to mention the five other semi-leads, but I won't give anything away. So I'll keep it simple: Broken in so many ways, yet held together by one another, they were all strong in their own ways, but Marchetta brought out the demons within them. The ones everyone has, but that some can't control, but with the demons came a beautiful depiction of the many loves people can have for friends, family, and boy/girlfriends. Simply amazing.

Oh, you want to know about the plot too? Excuse me? Did I just read a successful mystery/general fiction that was crafted with so much more than suspense and clues? Finally! Marchetta outdid herself with this book, though I haven't read anything else by, I think she outdid herself. It was fantastic. The amount of thought that went into this is clear, yet it flows so naturally, as though it really was a true story.

There are so many different types of elements. Of course, there's the mystery about Taylor's past, her mother's past, and others' pasts, but there's also scenes that make you laugh, cry, and hold your breath. I was on the edge of my seat at times, while others I just wanted to reach into the story and hug some of the characters. I was dreaming with the five friends from the past, clueless yet curious about the mystery, and the romance between Taylor and Griggs was not only raw, believable, and intense, it was also very full of emotion. And it didn't distract from the plot; it only moved it forward and gave more to strengthen the message Marchetta sends with this.

In the beginning, if you read this (you very well should!), you'll notice it's a bit confusing. But that's all part of the plan. It comes to together, and the reader gets to solve the mystery without the lead character shoving the information down your throat. That was one of the things I loved most about this book. I got to be the mystery solver, while the story moved forward. The clues were connected by me around the same time they connected with Taylor, so there wasn't any of that crappy "stop the story so we can make sure the readers have caught on." There was: Story. And it was amazing.

Other: Warning: There are two sex scenes. Ish, though, because nothings shown or really described and they don't last more than a page and a half (and the pages are small; probably one normal-sized page). Though, I kind of wish the second one wasn't in there. I don't really think it was needed, but that may just be me. And, like I said earlier, there is some cursing, but it didn't bother me. Oh, and I have to say this, I just have to: Every time I see the word "Jellicoe," the song from CATS starts playing in my head. Because Jellicles are and Jellicles do//Jellicles do and Jellicles would//Jellicles would and Jellicles can//Jellicles can and Jellicles do. Anyway, oh! And the cat! THE CAT! Marisa, the cat!

So I think I've done enough gushing about this book--okay, no I haven't. I'm going to do a bit more. This book was, in the simplest way, amazing. It shows how tragedy can bring joy, how joy can turn into sadness, how sadness and pain can build up inside without anyone knowing, how love can blossom even amongst enemies, and most important, for me anyway, how you should listen to your dreams. They can bring you everything you need and more. Marchetta, beautiful, beautiful job.

No comments:

Post a Comment