In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor’s the reluctant leader of her school’s underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can’t avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.
I feel like regardless of where I am on social media, everyone is talking about the same five books and obviously if everyone keeps talking about them there has to be something so inexplicably great about them that you have to find out what it is yourself. Melina Marchetta’s books are definitely some of those books and I’m constantly being told that I need to read one. Everyone is always saying that if I read a Marchetta book it’ll change my life. I’ve now read a Marchetta book. I can’t say that my life is changed. I mean it was fine and the story was nice in the end but it wasn’t spectacular like everyone said it was. Did I maybe pick the wrong Marchetta book to read as my first one? That’s a possibility but I still think that I’d feel the same way about this book even if I’ve read a bunch of her books. If I’m being honest, which you all know I am, this felt like a case of being overhyped. I expected something amazing with mindblowing writing and all I got was a book that took too long to make sense. That being said, there were some good things that I liked about this book and I did enjoy it near the end, for sure. But as a whole, this was more of a book that was fine for me.
- I think my favourite thing about this book was Hannah’s story, aka the past. I was beyond confused when I first started the book and there was this flashback to someone that clearly wasn’t Taylor and I couldn’t understand what was going on, but I knew that their story really intrigued me. What I liked about that story was that it provided so much context about Taylor’s current world and what was going on there, particularly with the territory wars. But the characters, Narnie, Webb, Fitz, Tate, and Jude, were what I loved most. They all seemed to have such deep care and love for one another and I loved every time we went back to their story. They all had their problems but it was like they were all each other’s support system and being together is what made them keep hanging on, especially Narnie. They were each other’s family, since Webb, Narnie, and Tate had no one left but themselves, and they all had such an important role in someone’s life. They all had such wonderful dreams for their lives together and seeing them all happy made me happy. I feel like it was here in this story of the past that Marchetta’s writing truly shined and I could see the beauty that most people had talked about. This was the most intriguing part of the book in my opinion and I wish I could get more of this story.
- I think that Taylor’s story was supposed to reflect Hannah’s story, and you kind of saw that as you went further along in her story and read more of Hannah’s story, and while not all of it was a perfect reflection the one thing I thought was was the friendship of the Five and of Taylor’s Four, or if we include Ben it’s Five but he was more of a secondary character. I really loved seeing how at the beginning these four characters, Taylor, Raffy, Santangelo, and Jonah, essentially hated each other but as they saw more of each other they let their guards down and solidified a really good friendship. Seeing the Four letting each other in and spending time together just because, not discussing the territory war, was wonderful to see. The Five had an easier time coming together than the Four did but by the end of the story their relationship had the same strength that the Five did and I loved it.
- It’s a good thing this book is marketed as a mystery book because it had me trying to figure out everything from the moment I started this book. Once everything started making sense around half way through I found the core mystery to be really well done, actually. I kind of liked how we figured things out as Taylor figured it out, though I may have figured out some things before her, but I thought it was clever how both stories in this book intertwined and how it all came together in the end.
- I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Marchetta’s writing. Initially I thought the style was nice but I just got to a certain point where I couldn’t really see anything special about it. Sure, there were some good throwaway lines and beautiful passages but nothing about her writing felt overly special to me. There were some instances where we jumped from one idea or scene to another with little context or lead in and there were some of those “matter of fact” descriptions, particularly where the romance between Taylor and Jonah was involved (which I’ll get to in a little while). Part of me wonders if it’s maybe because Marchetta used a lot of Australian slang and wording that I didn’t really understand but obviously she’s entitled to doing that because she is Australian. But it lost me a lot, I’m not gonna lie. My biggest problem was the fact that it took halfway through for this book to make any kind of sense. And I’m not even talking about the mystery aspect. Like, nothing about this book made sense until that halfway mark. I didn’t understand the purpose of these territory wars or what they even were. I was constantly asking myself “but why are they fighting over territory? What does any of this even mean?” It was like I was thrown into the middle of something and was forced to just go along with it and it didn’t matter that I didn’t understand it. When I eventually got the backstory and the context, everything made sense. But it shouldn’t take until halfway through to get the answer for something that simple. You could probably argue that there were explanations about the territory wars from Taylor, but were there really? Or was it just Taylor saying what they were doing but not actually telling you why they were doing it, or what the point was? That’s what half of this book was about and honestly I could do without it. If the reader can’t make sense of it in the first half then either have your backstory in the early chapters or maybe just don’t include it in your story.
- Arg, the romance. I was honestly so ready for this to be a great haters-to-lovers type thing between Taylor and Jonah but it felt so bland. They actually had a pretty interesting backstory and we actually got that early on so I liked that they were already relatively established. That’s not my problem. My problem is that I don’t think Marchetta is good at writing her romance. Like, these two would be miles apart from each other mentally and focusing on anything but romance and then all of a sudden Jonah would kiss Taylor. It didn’t feel like there was much of a build up on a romantic level and, like the territory wars aspect of the story, we were thrown into it abruptly. This is where I felt Marchetta’s writing was choppy and “matter of factly” because you just suddenly ended up in a romantic moment. And listen, I’ve read a lot of romance in these past two years so I have my standards. Even one of the worst books I’ve read had better romantic scenes and writing than this one. And it can’t be because of Marchetta’s audience that it was so poorly done because this book has your standard YA material so there was no reason she had to censor herself or be careful. I never felt that connection to the romance that I usually do. Sure, I wanted them to be together because obviously I could tell there were feelings, but when we actually got to anything romantic between them it felt awkward and slightly uncomfortable. I’m wondering if maybe there was too much focus on writing their backstory that not a lot of thought was put into their present relationship and therefore there was an overall lack of emotion both in the writing and in the reader.
- I think this might’ve been the first time that I never felt any type of connection to the characters. I mean, me not connecting with the protagonist isn’t much of a surprise since it happens to me all the time but I can either fall for the love interest or see something in the protagonist’s best friend but none of that really happened. I think I connected more with those in Hannah’s story than I did with Taylor and her Four. When I first started reading I thought that I was gonna connect and relate to Taylor but nothing really came out of that. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the characters because I did, especially Ben, but I just didn’t grow attached to them and I think that really added to the overall underwhelming feeling I have for this book.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- For me, this book was a case of being overhyped. Sure, the story was good and intriguing once you got past the halfway point and it all started making sense, but I don’t really see how the overall journey to that point was worth it in the end. I wish that Jellicoe Road was about Hannah’s story instead. I think I’ll give Marchetta another chance to wow me, though.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Release Date: March 9, 2010 (first published in 2006)
Pages: 419 (Paperback)
Until next time,