(or Jellicoe Road in the U.S.)
by Melina Marchetta
Plot Summary:Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
Review:Let me preface this by saying contemporary books aren't usually my kind of read but I adore Melina Marchetta a whole lot, so I'm really sad that On the Jellicoe Road really did nothing for me. It might also have hurt that I was listening to this on audiobook and it took me awhile to understand what was going on in the beginning - that there is a separate (but related) story being narrated alongside Taylor Markham's. And the seriousness with which the territorial gangs take themselves is a little bit bewildering to me so maybe there is also a culture disconnect going on with me? I'm not sure, but I really want to stress that I know this is a highly regarded novel and I understand why it is so well thought of, but personally I didn't find myself very invested in the story.
The novel captures the teenage angst very well, with such vivid, rich character portrayals that make you feel like you know these people. There are a lot of secrets in this story and Taylor is driven to know what happened with her mother which creates much tension as she struggles to understand her past. Jonah Griggs as the main romantic lead is damaged by his own past, but manages to be a very charming and caring character who I wanted to immediately see more of when he was first introduced. The related storyline which is something that Taylor's guardian Hannah is writing, has it's own dramas and I really believe that if it was better delineated in the audiobook between those two accounts I would have found Hannah's story more effective. As it was, it seemed more like a distraction until the true meaning of it became clear.
There's nothing really bad I have to say about this book actually. I only didn't love it as much as I wanted to, and I felt like for the subject matter, I preferred Melina Marchetta's earlier novel Saving Francesca. The characters of that novel appealed to me more than the characters of Jellicoe Road. And there were times when I really felt that Taylor could have been more productive if she had calmed down and looked at the facts more. The writing is outstanding of course, as are the characterizations, it's only personal preference that has made me ambivalent about this book.