It’s another Monday, and another chance to gush and squee over a book that I love. Truly, I could do this every day of the week…
But today’s book: Jellicoe Road by the uber-talented Australian author Melina Marchetta
As can be seen by the shiny gold sticker on the cover, I’m not the only one who liked this book. Published in 2006 in Australia and 2008 in the U.S., the book won the fancy-shmancy (or prestigious) Michael L. Printz award, among others. It’s THAT good.
Having said that, I had to start the book three separate times before I got into it, and given that I’m a thirtysomething pseudo-intellectual, that’s saying something about how quickly it grabs you. Actually, the first time I thought it must be a sequel to something I hadn’t read, because I was so confused. Not usually a good thing in a teen read.
So what makes it so good? Well, nothing pisses me off more than reviews of YA books that state something like, “it’s so good, it could almost be a grown-up book!” Or a “real book.” Jeesh…condescending much? But truly, JELLICOE ROAD has much of what I adore in good adult literature, mixed in with much of the best of the young adult genre. WTF do I mean by that, you ask? Well, the characters are subtle and lovely and flawed and take their time letting you into their head. The plot is complex, and almost veers into magic realism, but then pulls together so beautifully that it kind of took my breath away. The writing is sophisticated and gorgeous without ever distracting from the story. So what makes is so YA-great? Young, complicated, angsty people finding out about themselves and falling in love, of course! This is what YA is all about!
This is not an easy book to blurb. It’s the story of Taylor Markham, a student at the Jellicoe School. Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she’s eleven, Taylor is alone and likes it that way, with only Hannah, the school’s neighbor, as her go-to adult. But when Hannah disappears and Taylor gets reluctantly voted leader of the school’s underground power structure, she has to take on far more than she wanted. Taylor has to negotiate in the ongoing war with the Townies and the visiting Cadets, as well as try to mentor and help her younger housemates. Finally, her dreams, fears, and friends all converge and she has to try and figure out how Hannah’s disappearance, her own past, and the history of a tragic accident on Jellicoe Road intersect.
Other fabulous things? The Australian bush!
Slow burning fire: The history, enmity, slow trust and ultimate hot romance between Taylor and Jonah (the leader of the Cadets) are enough for major swooning.
In short, I think this book is remarkable. It definitely takes a little work to get into it, but the ultimate story is so strong and redemptive that it’s totally worth it! Here’s hoping for a sequel soon…