Title: On the Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary
Synopsis: “I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.”
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. (Goodreads)
I listened to the audiobook of this way back in January, so I might be missing some parts. Apologies for being the usual scatter-brain of an Ana! 😛
This story is pretty long, and it felt like some parts definitely dragged. A lot of things happen in this book, and sometimes Taylor talks about them out of chronological order. It’s up to the reader to put them in order in their heads, and to really get a feel for the whole of Taylor’s story. There’s also the fact that there’s another story being told within this one, and that probably contributes to the length.
Putting the pace aside, I found the story quite compelling. Taylor is dealing with her own issues of abandonment, of having to be strong and tough because she’s the “leader” of the students. While she is snarky and tough, she also has moments of being vulnerable and confused. She’s not a perfect character, and I really like that because she seems realistic to me. I liked all of the characters, because they’re so different from each other in terms of attitude and personality. The contrast between families, say Taylor being alone, and her friend having a big and loving family, also made my heart ache. Everyone in the book has their problems, and Marchetta is able to write how differently people deal with their problems.
One thing I did find odd was how seriously the characters take their territory wars, because it seemed pretty over-the-top to me. There were treaties, agreements, boundaries, and real rules that everyone had to follow. There were even consequences if these rules were broken. The territory wars make up a significant portion of the story, but it’s mostly used as a framing device for the reader to get to know the characters better.
As for the writing, there were some parts that really struck a chord with me. There is a lot of pain in this book. Like I said, everyone has their problems. Some problems are really heart-breaking, and the way that Marchetta is able to convey pain, sorrow, and desperation is something I admire.
Overall: I really loved the characters in this book, listening to their issues, and watching them develop from the first chapter. I give this book four stars, for a compelling (if long) story with realistic characters.