Monday, July 7, 2014

On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Summary: 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 the 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.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca. (Image and summary from

My review: Taylor keeps people at arms length - probably because she was abandoned by her mother at a 7-11 on the Jellicoe Road as a child. A young woman named Hannah took Taylor in and Taylor's home ever since has been the boarding school on Jellicoe Road.

It's the beginning of her final year of school and Taylor is elected head of the house. She is responsible for all the younger girls. It's an honor she could see coming, but didn't want. And other students don't respect her authority in the rivalries with the Townies and Cadets (the local kids and the military school kids who also live nearby). 
Like many damaged children with a painful past, Taylor is mature for her age, highly-independent, needy, yet pushes people away. 

Then her mentor and parental figure Hannah goes missing. The principal assures Taylor that everything is fine, but Taylor knows Hannah would never leave without saying anything. In Hannah's home, she finds a clue - a manuscript that Hannah has been writing for years that Taylor was never allowed to read. As she reads the story, she realizes it isn't fiction - and it holds the secrets to more than Hannah's disappearance. This journey of self-discovery finds Taylor unravelling the secrets of Hannah, Taylor's mother, Taylor's father (whom she never knew), the hermit who killed himself in front of her, and a brigadier she suspects might be a serial killer. 

 In this shining coming-of-age story set in the wilds of Australia, Taylor is well aware of her broken past and her broken heart. It isn't until she no longer runs from them that she realizes she is more whole and more loved than she ever imagined. 

I sought out this book after reading some quotes from it on Goodreads (I'm a sucker for quotes). I started it and was confused and not very into it. I stopped reading. Then I started again and I was hooked. There are two stories being told - one is a manuscript written by a teacher named Hannah, presented in italic font, and the other is the main story told from the perspective of Taylor. It took me longer than it probably should have to figure this out. You instantly sympathize with Taylor. What mother abandons a ten-year-old kid at a gas station? It's no wonder Taylor has trust issues, even if you want to slap her a once or twice. The two stories are both artfully told and intersect beautifully. It's the type of story that the reader pieces together before the narrator tells us, upping the anticipation and the power of the convergence. It really is powerful and worthy of its awards. My eyes were wet for the last quarter of the book and it ended better than I ever imagined.

My rating: Five Stars. This is my favorite kind of book. Introspective, smart, hopeful, and real.

For the Sensitive Reader: Several swear words (no F-bombs); teen intimacy, though not graphic; some drug references though none of the main characters use drugs; some violent deaths via gunshots told through memory. If it were a movie, it would be a conservative PG-13.

To Sum It Up: A poignant coming-of-age story that is as timeless in its themes as it is the setting. Starts out slow, but as the mystery grows then unravels, you won't be able to put it down. 

1 comment:

Carol said...

Thanks for including information about sensitive content. I try to stick to cleaner reads and hate getting really involved in a story only to be bombarded with language and graphic sex.


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