“Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta
Synopsis: “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.”
I read “Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta for two reasons, one was that my sister Sandie recommended it; if she recommends a book, I know it’s going to be good. The second reason I read it is that this books was the 2009 winner of the The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
Melina Marchetta has created not just one story but two stories that center on Jellicoe Road. There is the story of Taylor and then there is Hannah’s narrative, “the story within the story”. Both of these tales are gripping and powerful and it is amazing to discover how they come together.
There are unforgettable characters that stay with you well after you have finished reading the last page. There is Taylor Markham, a 17 year old who lives in a boarding school who has to deal with her mother’s abandonment of her. Her life intersects with that of cadet Jonah Griggs who also has tragic “baggage” in his life. As they realize the feelings they have for one another, they discover that they need each other more than they ever realized. Jonah and Tayloralso befriend Chaz Santangelo, a local “townie”. What is unusual about these friendships is that the students from the Jellicoe school, the cadets (city kids doing a six-week outdoor education program), and the townies have been involved in teen war-games in the Australian countryside for almost twenty years.
What is even more remarkable is the fact that as Taylor reads Hannah’s manuscript about teens at Jellicoe Road from about twenty years ago, she begins to discover that somehow their lives are linked together. We come to love the characters from Hannah’s story- Fitz, Jude, Narnie, Tate, and Webb. Therein is the brilliance of Jellicoe Road, that Marchetta has interwoven these stories so beautifully together.
“What do you want from me?” he asks.
What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him.
“My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted. It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of miles away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, ‘What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?’ and my father said, ‘Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,’ and that was the last thing he ever said.”
“If you weren’t driving, I’d kiss you senseless,” I tell him.
He swerves to the side of the road and stops the car abruptly.
“Not driving anymore.”
“And then their voices stopped and their souls stood still and they ceased being who they had been. Because who they were had always been determined by him.”