I bought Melina Marchetta’s “Jellicoe Road”after YA Crush’s Boyfriend List referred to the book’s hero as “Jonah effing Griggs.” I figured Tee and Vee have great taste in fictional boyfriends, so I went to my favorite children’s bookstore and started reading it the same day. I devoured the novel in one night and am not embarrassed to admit it made me cry big fat tears. I’m a sucker for stories about the unconditional nature of love and friendship. Jonah is neither the stereotypical emo singer-poet-Romantic nor the cocky bad-boy with the heart of gold. Well… ok, he might be a little bit the latter archetype, but not in the traditional Jace/Will/Damon sort of way. Jonah’s a military-school-cadet with a tragic history of family abuse, so he’s not about to quote e.e. cummings or write his beloved’s name in the sand. But he will definitely sweep you off your feet with the intensity of his ardor, and it doesn’t get better than that.
Name: Jonah Griggs
What Does He Look Like? “A tank”: tall, broad with a rugby-player’s muscular build. He’s also got a military-issue buzz-cut and wears a uniform for most of the book.
What Does He Do? Griggs is a cadet in an Australian military academy that sends its students “out bush” for a six-week outward bound program every year.
Who Does He Love? Our equally as damaged protagonist, Taylor Markham, who is a student at Jellicoe School, a government-run boarding school that gets “invaded” by Cadets annually for six weeks. The two have a complicated history, and their relationship for most of the book is passionately tempestuous until it turns into everlasting love.
Why Him? This answer could turn into one of those “New Yorker”-length feature stories with 17,000 words of flowery praise for one of YA’s most fascinating, complicated, heart-breaking, utterly tough-but-vulnerable boys. He’s not one of those one-dimensional baddies whom young girls can’t help but want to fix (I’m looking at you, Draco Malfoy lovers); Jonah’s damaged, yes, but still full of so much love and kindness. The way he’s protective and fierce yet always, always, always there for Taylor when she needs him is irresistible. I fall in love often while reading Young Adult novels, but Jonah was special. He and Taylor had the Real Thing, not just a diverting first-love Fling.
“I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
“What do you think would happen if we kissed right here, right now?” he asks, digging his hands into the pockets of his khaki pants, grinning right back at me.
“I think it would cause a riot.”
“Well, you know me,” he says, lowering his head towards me. “Causing a riot is what I do best.”
Taylor describes Jonah:
“When I turn around he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don’t know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don’t know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it instantly.”
Many thanks to the amazing Simini Blocker for her awesome Jonah “effing” Griggs illustration.