On the Jellicoe Road Review

9780143011194Title: On the Jellicoe Road

Author: Melina Marchetta

Genre: YA/ Contemporary/ Drama

Publication date: 2006 by Penguin Australia

Pages: 290

Reminds me of: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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. Source

I think I’ll begin by telling you the reactions I got from others reading On the Jellicoe Road. I witnessed a combination of swooning, heart clutching and sighing the title out loud. Then there was the completely opposite reaction where there was growling, nose scrunching and tongue sticking out in annoyance. I was surprised how a book so highly acclaimed could elicit these negative reactions. It was all so dramatic and definitely intrigued me to keep reading. But opinions were based on their preference for genre. Those who loved the book did not appreciate her fantasy books, whereas the opposite group adored them. Turning the last page I was mopping up tears and getting over a good sob. She evoked a huge chunk of emotion from me. The journey I experienced to get to that point, however, was a bit conflicting.

The first 100 pages were tedious to get through and I really couldn’t understand it’s appreciation.
I found it sluggish and complex and I didn’t understand how the emotional aspect was so heavy for a story about a group of teenagers fighting a game-like territorial war at their boarding school out in the bush. But I persevered and I’m happy I did.

These opening chapters are a beautiful foreshadowing for something much more dark to come. They’re important and critical once you begin to piece the puzzle together. Marchetta strings us along, revealing only fragments at a time. It’s worded very carefully and sparingly. Every sentence or word placement has a purpose – she’s just such a talented and wonderful write I can’t get over her skill. Hannah’s manuscript is an important ploy you shouldn’t read over lightly. Don’t be afraid to read way too into it and speculate outrageous outcomes for its purpose – it’s part of the fun. She gives the reader that capacity to assume anything and everything. On this note, the setting is rich and has immense escapist occurrences – you really get lost in it. I’m from the city area of Sydney, and it was nice she transported us there for a brief moment but I really appreciated the bushland scope.

Taylor Markham is a flawed, bruised but remarkable main character. Her story is so personal and her inability to remember highlights the fragility of memory. She reminds us we can choose to remember what we want and that we shouldn’t be so dependant on our own recollections. We understand she’s undergone a traumatic and dark past especially evident by the fact she’s repressed such a large portion. It doesn’t make her delicate – she’s feisty and aggressive which is so different but perfect for a female heroine. I think there should be more of Taylor’s personality out there. Constantly we see female heroines who are happy, giggly and light hearted – which is a wonderful positive representation. But frequently they’re paralleled by male counterparts who are allowed to show aggression and frustration. I think Marchetta has done a fantastic thing by giving a female character a typically male characteristic even if the feminist approach wasn’t her intention.


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

On the Jellicoe Road is testament to Marchetta’s skill as both a writer and a storyteller. I understand perfectly why she won Printz award for it. It’s an incredible piece of literature. Because it took me a third of the book to actually get into it I just couldn’t give it five stars and I so badly wanting to hop aboard the bandwagon of fans who literally swoon over this book. Unlike We Were Liars, I think this book does something deeper and more personal to the reader and for that reason I’m actually going back to edit that review. Marchetta’s book is moving and emotional, and it should be on your book bucket list.

* This was read as part of the Australian Women’s Writing Challenge


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