Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Taylor Markam was ditched at a gas station at the age of eleven.  Hannah, the woman who found her was a volunteer at Jellicoe School and that's how Taylor found herself gearing up to lead the annual territory war with the military cadets and Townies during her senior year. She wasn't elected unanimously by her fellow students so she's determined to do her job well and keep her power until Hannah disappears without a word.  Hannah was the only adult Taylor relied on and she can't get over her sense of abandonment enough to concentrate of the games.  It doesn't help that the leader of the cadets, Jonah Griggs, is the very same boy who turned her in when they ran away together years ago.   The other students fear him because he's rumored to have killed his own father, but Taylor hates him for his betrayal.

As Hannah's disappearance continues, Taylor begins to suspect that the story she learned from Hannah of five kids who started the territory wars eighteen years ago, is actually true.  She knows she must find Hannah and she must know the whole truth about what happened to those five students and how they are connected to her.

It reminded me of a modern-day Australian Dead Poets' Society, where a group of school kids are having secret meetings and learning the harsh realities of life at a tragic young age.  The comparison doesn't quite do it justice though because Jellicoe Road is more complex and multi-layered (but Dead Poets Society definitely got the better title).

I'm not sure that I would have picked this book up based on the blurb alone, because it seems a little too I'm-trying-to-be edgy-and-shock-teenagers (and the boring cover wouldn't tempt me either), but I picked it up after it was announced as a Cybils Young Adult finalist along with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (possibly my favorite book of the year), and what higher recommendation could it get?

If someone told me that Melina Marchetta wrote this book for adults and then was directed by an agent or publisher to publish it in the young adult field, I wouldn't have been surprised because the only thing about it that makes it seem young adult it Taylor's age (although I must note that Marchetta always intended it for young adults).  I don't mean that as an insult.  This books is extremely complex and full of poetic moments, and I think it would succeed just as well with an adult audience.

Then there is the issue with language.  Many parents will object to this novel based on its frequent use of the F word.  Normally it would bother me so much that I wouldn't have finished the book, but this plot had me and I tried to keep in mind that the F word is not seen as the ultimate swear word in Australia as it is here.

OK, now some of that may have put you off the book, but I must admit that I picked this book up in bed, judging by it's cover that it would quickly put me to sleep and found myself frantic to finish at 5:30 a.m. when my husband's alarm went off.  It's intriguing and you will not be able to put it down.  And when you finish it, it will haunt you. 


Anonymous said...

What a great review. This one's on my list now and I definitely won't start it right before bed!

caribookscoops said...

Sounds like a good book to read. I'm generally not a big fan of books that use the f word a lot, but I get your point about it not having the same weight as it does here. Swearing is so cultural. I think I will give it a try.

Anonymous said...

OMG - I so agree - this book is amazing - curse whoever it was that wrote the review that first led me to it :) Now I can't get it out of my head! lol

Unknown said...

This is this month's book scheduled for an online book club and I've just commenced reading it, I thoroughly enjoyed the review. However, I just wanted to state that I'm currently residing in Australia and the "F" word is as bad here as it is anywhere in the world. It is used by children, teens and adults here but no more than how much it is used in the US.