Jellicoe Road is, at least here in North America, Melina Marchetta’s most beloved book. Well, among people I know anyway. It’s won a Printz award. If someone looks at me and says the words “Jonah Griggs” I know we are going to get along fabulously. And yes, this has happened to me…recently. Sometimes, just saying two words from a book encompasses the whole book and one’s entire feelings on it and saying any more would lessen the impact. When I say “Jonah Griggs,” to someone, I’m not just talking about the fact of his hotness. I’m talking about how Melina Marchetta can introduce us to a character that’s kind of a jerk at the beginning, tell us he killed his own father, and then make us fall so irresolutely in love him that you would defend him to your last breath.
And he isn’t even the main character.
Leiah: I could write a book about this book. There are so many things I want to tell you, but the magic of Jellicoe Road is finding them out for yourself. I will say that when I started the book, it took me awhile to figure out what was going on. The reader is thrown in with very little setup. It’s an intriguing kind of confused though. After finishing it, I can see that what Ms. Marchetta did was brilliant. She starts out with a very wide lens, so to speak, at the start of Jellicoe and as you read, she slowly begins to narrow the focus. Things become sharper, words and images. The depth of feeling you have for all the characters grows at this very controlled pace until you are completely out of control and falling headlong into the lives of these rich and vibrant people. I love this book. I love it. It really is one of my “litmus test” books. I will judge you.
Two other things I will tell you, first, the epilogue GUTTED me. I know people say, “I totally bawled my eyes out,” when they talk about reading something. There is no hyperbole here, folks, I snot-sobbed for twenty minutes after I finished. It was just so f*%king poignant. Okay, second, pay attention to the people. Ms. Marchetta is a tricksy one and likes to make use of them again.
Christine: I read On the Jellicoe Road after I finished Finnikin due largely to Caitlin’s fangirling and her unspoken (but heavily hinted at) requirement of my reading it if I wanted our friendship to continue. At first I was skeptical of her raving and confused about the plot, or if there even was a plot (I had not just realized Melina’s subtlety) as I learned about Taylor and her life. This is a hard book to summarize because thinking back on it, I honestly have no idea what the major plot points were or even how Melina managed to intertwine everything and everyone in a way to make me tear up as much as I did at the end. I remember Jonah and his perfection. I remember Taylor and her way of floating along with whatever was happening around her, until she finally came out of it and started taking notice of the world. I also remember coming out of this book, which I read almost entirely in one sitting, with Melina Marchetta firmly implanted in my mind as a goddess among authors. Her writing impacts you on an almost subconscious level and then when you least expect it, you’re crying. Even if you’re not interested in this book from its summary, I’d recommend giving it a chance just purely for the writing style. And who knows, maybe you’ll like it, too.
Caitlin: The first time I picked this book up was in a library. I quickly put it back down and didn’t think of it again for a few weeks. The next time I saw it was in a bookstore and I bought it without thinking twice and read it very quickly afterward. I don’t think words can quite desrcribe what this made me feel or what it’s meant for my life. Taylor’s need for, and utter fear of, family is so heart breaking to watch unfold. And (this is true of all of Melina’s books) she can make the most mundane moment the most romantic. The most boring little detail can come to mean the world to the plot and the characters, and to you. I listened to the audiobook recently and I have to say that rereading this book is such a joy. Once you know who all the characters are in relation to everyone else (and the events of this book cover two different time lines with a lot of events that happened on a third timeline so it can get a little confusing in the first half) and you understand everyone from the beginning, it is such a different perspective.
There really is no way for me to tell how much I love this book. It is the pinnacle of what contemporary young adult fiction can be.
Don’t forget to check out our giveaway of Froi of the Exiles.