Thursday, December 18, 2008

(On the) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

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Trisha posted an awesome review of this one and totally stole my mojo but, you know, aside from that, everything’s fine.

(And Trisha, just so you know, my review will never top yours, so take your expectations elsewhere. Just because you STOLE MY WORDS FROM ME, I am checking out books from your library and never bringing them back OR paying late fees.)

Anyway. The Australian title is On the Jellicoe Road, which is why you see that on this post title. The US one is Jellicoe Road. The latter cover (below) is the Australian one, which I like infinitely more than the US one (to the left).

Jellicoe Road is without a doubt a book unlike any other I’ve read. But hold that thought for a moment.

This is one of those books that 1) you should go into not knowing much of anything, 2) that will probably leave you very confused for the first 100 pages or so, but 3) is ultimately one you’ll end up loving, or at the very least appreciating the cleverness behind the structure. Preferably you’ll have read one of Melina’s other books before (and if we’re speaking of “preferably,” that book will have been Looking for Alibrandi, because I think it’s better than Saving Francesca), so you’ll know Melina’s a fine writer who knows what she’s doing and isn’t just getting sloppy.

It’s hard to say what Jellicoe Road is about exactly—I don’t want your reading experience to be ruined. And anyway, even if I did tell you what it’s about, this novel has so many facets, it’s hard to give a full picture without making you sit down and read it. It’s a mystery novel about finding yourself; it’s a family story about a girl who is, for all intents and purposes, an orphan; it’s a story about friendship for a girl who always thought she was alone; and it’s about a road that, immobile as it is, is constantly changing to the eye of each beholder. It’s no wonder this novel is so confusing at first—it’s a paradox of itself.

Anyway, as I was saying in the beginning, this book’s different, in structure as much as plot. There are two main storylines, one from the past—seventeen years before—and one in the present. The Past one tells the story of five teenagers who were friends, family, and couples, all of whom had special ties to the Jellicoe Road. The Present one tells the story of one lone teenage girl who’s been abandoned by her mother, who’s got no recollection of her father, and who has no other family to speak of. The Present is told in real time through Taylor’s first person narration; the Past is told through manuscript pages written by a woman who’s been like a mother—but not really a mother—to Taylor ever since she was abandoned. The book basically keeps going with each storyline until both merge and you see how they’re connected.

Like I said: this isn’t a book I’ve—or you’ve, I’d wager—read before. It’s original and elusive, and, when all is said and done, brilliant. It kept me at bay, grasping for clues where there just weren’t any until everything made sense in a way I wouldn’t have guessed.

I’d like to say there’s a bit in here for everyone. You’ve got your romance, your twisting-and-turning plot, your poetic prose, your instant solid characters, and your underlying passionate and solid storytelling.

Possibly on my list of favorite YA books ever, probably my favorite Melina Marchetta, and definitely on my top ten for this year (US release date, of course). Shoo-in for an A.

Oh and on a final note: pay attention to the prologue. Careful attention.

Hey wait! You can BrowseInside this one via HarperCollins's website!
Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism. Find out more about it here.

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Anonymous said...

Your review is complex... but I am intrigued. haha. =)

Amee said...

Wow, sounds good and sort of confusing. Lol. I loved Looking for Alibrandi so I'm sure I'll love this one as well. :)

Becky said...

I love this book!

Sarah Woodard said...

This book is so made of awesome.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, you know I adore, adore, adore you (first and foremost!) and this book! Eeeeeee! I'm so, so, so glad you liked it! And, that it's a part of this oh so fabulous week! Eeeeeee! What a great week! It just makes me grin thinking about how great this Girl Week is! Eeeeeeee!

Lots of love, love, love!

Just Listen said...

Favourite. Book. Ever.

I never really thought that a novel could top Saving Francesca, but On the Jellicoe Road blew my mind.

Gah, it's just so amazing.

ellie_enchanted said...

This sounds really, really good. I hope it lives up to the expectations you've given me =)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Sounds amazing. I'm really curious about Melina now. I want to read her stuff!


Anonymous said...

Hey, you managed to get some plot summary in your review, which is more than I did!

Thanks, though. From you, and only you, I'll take the threat of stealing my books as a compliment.


Anonymous said...

I agree my fave MM novel and I didn't think anything to could top Looking for Alibrandi. Disconcerting at first, this novel wiggles its way into your heart.

Anonymous said...

Because at least half the people who have commented on this blog entry have written oh so beautiful summaries and reviews of Jellicoe, I'll say thank you in one big go. Most heartfelt. If I had to compare novels with children, I'd have to say Jellicoe is my most misunderstood child and I've had more criticism about its ambiguity than any other. One of the comments I heard frequently when it was first released more than two years ago, was that some readers wanted it to be another Alibrandi and Francesca. It's not. But two years on, I receive more letters about Jellicoe than any of my other novels and they are always from young people and they are always so profound and most times they make me cry. It reinforces to me the privilege of writing in this genre of YA as well as reinforcing the sophistication of our readers and our writers.

Rachel Elizabeth said...

wow. I just read this book and then reread it.
It is absolutely amazing. seriously.
My new equal-favourite book at the moment.
It's complexities were compelling and the storylines were tragic, tear-jerking, hopeful and past any expectations I previously had.
I literally cried whilst reading this book and I have to say that the whole thing was simply magical.

and btw, great review :)

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