Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Pages: 419
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: September 1, 2008
Source: Jen from Literature for Lunch - thank you!
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Taylor was abandoned by her mother at a young age and is now living at a boarding school.  Hannah is her only real adult family member and as a result, she feels extremely close to her; however, Hannah up and leaves the boarding school without explanation.  Taylor is beside herself with worry; plus, she is the leader of her dorm in the territory wars and is very reluctant about the whole thing.  To make matters worse, Jonah, a boy she has history with, is back in town and is the leader of another group in the territory wars.  While all this is going on in the back of her mind Taylor is still worried about Hannah and her whereabouts.  Does it have anything to do with her mom?  Melina Marchetta's puzzling and award winning novel, Jellicoe Road, took me on a wild roller coaster ride and didn't let me go until the story's final page.

Ok. So. I am not going to lie. I pretty much loathed Jellicoe Road for the first one hundred or so pages. I wish you guys could have heard my inner monologue.  I reminded myself of my students when they first encounter Shakespeare.  I was saying things like, "Huh? Territory wars? Is this a dystopia? Am I in Maze Runner right now?"......."Wait.  What's this part in italics?" ......."How did this win the Printz award? There's so story, really." ........"Am I even comprehending what is going on here? What the heck?"  Needless to say, I was extremely confused.  Since Marchetta is a new-to-me author, I had a hard time trusting her in that the story would make sense as I continued to read.  Thanks to fellow bloggers, I was told to hold on and keep going.  To me, it was like a bad workout. I didn't want to continue, because it was hard and I was tired, but afterwards, I was happy I ran that extra mile and felt pretty good about it.

Taylor's story is interrupted several times with another story about five teens from the past.  At first, readers will have no clue what is going on, but as you read further the teen's story is interwoven expertly into Taylor's.  As a reader, you must have patience with this as you have NO prior knowledge concerning this Don't get me wrong....I like a little mystery and confusion in my books, but this was more like 100 or so pages of not knowing anything.

On a positive note, Marchetta is a brilliant writer. I was shocked by the second half of the book, because I didn't think she could really "fix" the mess of the first half.  However, she proved me wrong. The puzzle came together and I definitely had that "A-HA!" moment when everything made sense.  I can honestly say I've never read a story like Jellicoe Road. It is very unique as is Marchetta's writing style as well.

But here is what is on my mind: Yes, Jellicoe Road is beautifully written, but I wonder how many teenagers will actually stick with the first half of the book?  I know many of my 8th graders would probably give up and put it down, because most like to be sucked into a story from the start.  In fact, many bloggers said that had to reread the book or pick it up again at a later date in order to get through it.  Hmm.... To me, this aspect of Jellicoe Road takes away from the reader's overall enjoyment. 

So all in all, do I feel Jellicoe Road is well written?  Yes.  Do I feel that it's an interesting puzzle of a story? Yes.  Is it life changing as many claim it to be? No, not for me, but that doesn't mean I won't be picking up her other novels in the future. I plan on checking out Saving Francesca and Finnikin of the Rock, because I can't deny that Marchetta is a talented writer.

*Read an excerpt


  1. I am so glad you liked it. :) I don't think you loved it as much as I did, but that is okay. I love rereading this book because I discover something new each time.

    I actually had some 8th graders from my writing group who read it and thought it was the best book they had ever read. However, it is certainly not for everyone.

    This is one of my top favorite books of all time. Saving Francesca and Looking for Alibrandi are much more straightforward with their narrative structure but still wonderful.

    I would read anything Melina Marchetta ever wrote. (Sorry to turn my comment into an Ode to Melina!)

  2. Thanks, Jen! I will have to offer it up to some of my more mature 8th graders that like a challenge, because I can see some of my other students becoming super frustrated with it. I'll let you know how it goes. I can't wait to read Saving Francesca! Thanks for your advice regarding the 8th graders.

  3. I've heard amazing things about this one from other bloggers, but I'm not sure I'd have the patience to stick through those first one hundred pages. I will try to check this one out at some point and see what I think!

    Thanks for the great review! :)

  4. What a fabulous review Christina! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts since I've only read glowing reviews for this one and it was nice to understand that there are a few drawbacks that don't work for all readers:) Sounds like a really interesting book, and I love when an author successfully ties together different parts of the story in a brilliant way:)

  5. Great points. I've heard amazing things but had no idea it takes sticking power.

  6. Awesome review! I have read this book, but I can't write a review for it. Why? Because it's just that good. I LOVE this book, it's brilliant. At first I had no idea what was going on, but then it just wowed me. :)

  7. I loved this book by the time it wrapped up, but like you, I was not immediately hooked--although I think the opening lines are fantastic and very hookable. Nice review--I agree with you completely.

  8. Am i the only one who hasn't read JR?!? lol I need to though :D great review!

  9. I tried to read this, but felt it was really sad. I loved saving francesca though. I read it a really long time ago.


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