TITLE: On the Jellicoe Road
AUTHOR: Melina Marchetta
LENGTH: 432 pages
SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) “What do you want from me?” he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
REVIEW: I loved Marchetta’s Saving Francesca for its humor and levity in dealing with depression. Now, in this novel, she weaves a heart-wrenching story that spans generations in this Printz award winning novel. Taylor’s voice is at once vulnerable and caustic. Marchetta strikes just the right balance that makes so many teens frustrating to love and impossible to hate. And the way Taylor grows over the course of the story is realistically painful. She has all the anger and distrust of anyone who has been abandoned and it takes a lot of convincing from different people in her life to make her realize that she is worthy and capable of love.
Much like Taylor’s memories, the story itself seems to struggle to blend together. In the beginning it’s not clear how the two different narratives are related but it is evident that Hannah is the key to making sense of the mystery surrounding Taylor’s mother. And while the Cadets and Townies continue to battle over territory with the Jellicoe students, Taylor struggles against the void Hannah’s disappearance has left. The closer Taylor gets to the truth, the more of herself she has to give away to the people in her life. It is terrifying and liberating for Taylor and readers hang on every word.
I listened to the audio narration of Taylor’s story and it is magnificent. The narrator, Rebecca Macauley, is able to bring life to the way Marchetta infuses Taylor’s confusion and despair with a spark of hope. Quite literally that spark blazes into clarity for Taylor and for the well-meaning but misguided adults in her life. In the end, Taylor’s journey on the Jellicoe Road takes her through equal parts grief and joy.