Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Release Date: April 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Printz Award Winner 2009
The stories of Jellicoe Road are not easy ones to tell. They are complicated tales that deal with car crashes, deaths, heroes, new friendships, disappearances, The War, and abandonment. Not many would dare to unravel all the riddles, but for seventeen-year-old Taylor Markham her future lies in its midst and it is all she can think about.
As leader of the Jellicoe Road Houses, her concentration should be on The War and protecting her territory from the townies and cadets. However, when the only adult she is close to disappears, her only thought is figuring out where Hannah went. To do so, she must figure out the connection between her mother abandoning her, Hannah’s rescue, a boy who haunts her dreams, words once whispered by a stranger, and five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago. With the help of her friends and her so-called enemy Jonah Griggs, Taylor begins to unlock the answers she has been so desperate to find. But once the puzzle is complete, will she really have what she is looking for
So I’m a little torn on how I feel about this book. On one hand I really enjoyed it. The way the multiple stories were weaved together was done beautifully and gracefully. I did put together the pieces long before they were spelled out, but there was never a point where I got bored/wanted to put the book down. In fact, it was one of those books that kept me up until 4a.m. because I needed to see the end.
However, there are still things that nag at me every time I think about the book. The first one is The War. I know it is a game/territory issue that has been going on for many, many years. It even comes complete with boundary maps and a complex rule book, but please, please don’t ask me to describe it. Why? Well, because I have no idea how it works or what the ultimate goal is each year beyond protecting territory. I understand the importance of The War, but it felt so trivial compared to everything else and honestly wish Marchetta would have left it out or explained it just a little better.
My second issue is with Taylor. I adore this character, but in the end she felt a little off. Maybe closed off is a better word. As a reader I never truly felt how deep her pain/torment went. This is going to seem weird, but I thought she should have been more screwed up then she was. If I were in her shoes, I would not have been able to think or function properly. I know it was hinted that many of her friends were worried about her, but it was based off her actions. As a reader, we were allowed to see her inner thoughts along with those actions and made her attitude seem more reasonable. She was distracted and disconnected…not utterly falling apart. I realize that a lot of her memories/experiences were most likely being repressed, but I wish it would have come to the surface just a little more. I know some/many will disagree with me on this point, but I just feel that when I understand a secondary characters pain/struggles more than the main character…well, it just seems wrong. (I’m sure that I’m making a bigger deal out of this than is needed, but some part of me just will NOT let it go.)
Even with these things nagging me, I really did enjoy Jellicoe Road. While I don’t think it would have been my choice for the Printz Award, it is very, very easy to see how it made it to the top of the list.