By Melina Marchetta
My Rating: 4 / 5
This is another book I borrowed from the library, which I’ve wanted to read for quite some time. Here is the summary:
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.
This book won the Printz award in 2009 (for best teen book) so I went into this somewhat apprehensive, because I’ve found in the past that I have really high expectations for award-winning books but don’t always enjoy them (maybe my expectations are too high?).
I’m happy to report, though, that I really enjoyed this book…once I got past the very confusing first few chapters, that is. The book started with no explanation of who the characters were, and then suddenly the book was about a bunch of different characters. I was so confused! I kept reading, figuring the author would explain all at some point, but honestly, for the first few chapters, I had no idea what was going on.
Other than the summary at the top of this post, I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, because despite my initial confusion, it really does come together very nicely at the end, and it’s probably easier to just jump in and read without knowing too much about the plot beforehand. Just trust me when I say it will all make sense.
The main character, Taylor, felt very real to me. Her actions frustrated me at times – she had a habit of pushing people away who only wanted to help her – but I felt that I could understand why she acted that way, as I gradually learned more about her childhood with the mother who abandoned her. I also liked that Taylor was a bit snarky at times – she made me laugh on occasion, and this book had enough heaviness to it that I appreciated it when there was some levity.
There was so much going on in this book that I don’t really feel that I can properly write about it without extensively getting into the plot, which I don’t want to do. By the end, though, when the past and present connect and the lives of numerous characters wind up intertwined, I felt so caught up in these characters and their lives and their needs and wants that I couldn’t put this book down. The version I borrowed from the library was over 400 pages and I read it all in one evening – that’s how invested I felt in the outcome.
I think a lot of the characters in this novel wanted to connect with someone and to be known and understood, and we can all identify with that, can’t we? If you like contemporary YA – free from love triangles, zombies, vampires, dystopian or post-apocalyptic societies – with an interesting narrative structure, I definitely recommend this book.