I had heard so many wonderful things about this book that I'd put it on my list, but at the same time I could tell by the little I knew about it that it would probably be a difficult read emotionally. I've sounded off probably more than anyone would care to know about my aversion to books that are overtly emotionally manipulative, and I admit to being a bit concerned about that in this case. When a friend at work recommended this one to me several times, finally pointing out that he had read several things that I'd recommended, and he really thought I'd enjoy this one, I decided to take the plunge.
And he was right. It's an amazing book, and I'd put it among the very best that I read last year. Certainly, it's not an easy book to read at times, but it doesn't play any sneaky emotionally manipulative games either. It starts out with the very worst thing that could happen, and it lays it out there and doesn't linger on it to make the reader suffer. There is a car accident, and it kills several people, and the rest of the book is about the consequences of that, the ramifications, and the healing. Fellow wimpy readers out there, you can read this. You will cry, but it's the good kind of crying, not the kind that leaves you depressed for days afterwards wishing you'd never opened the book i the first place.
There are just so many things that I loved about this book. The structure, for one thing. The book is like a puzzle, and it's told from multiple points of view, in various time periods, and at first it's very confusing. I, personally, enjoy this sort of thing. I loved The Sound and the Fury and When You Reach Me for that same kind of intricate unraveling of a complex plot as the book progresses, and it was funny that I read The Westing Game right after this book, which is very unlike Jellicoe Road in tone and theme yet presents a similar kind of puzzle for the intent and curious reader to grapple with. After a while I began to have my suspicions about what was going on, and for the most part I was right - but there were still some interesting revelations, and it was impressive to watch this story unfold in an unconventional way that packed a powerful emotional punch. (A good one. Honest.) Readers who prefer a more straightforward approach to their storytelling may not enjoy this aspect of the book as much as I did, and while this book is in the YA section at my library, I think that it would be most enjoyed by older teens who would likely find the structure less frustrating.
I also loved the characters. Tough and vulnerable Taylor. Mysterious Hannah, whose disappearance sets Taylor searching for clues from a buried past no one seems to want her to disturb. Jonah, moody and handsome, who seems to know much more than he's willing to let on. As I read I also found myself reminded of Looking for Alaska, another powerfully emotional boarding school story. I hesitate to say much more about the book, because the less the reader knows going in, the better the payoff. This would be a great choice for a book club (teen or adult) - it's the kind of book that you just want to sit down and talk about afterwards. Highly recommended.
Jellicoe Road (aka On the Jellicoe Road, Australian edition) by Meline Marchetta (HarperTeen, 2006)
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Dear Author: "It’s a rare book that seems so seamless when I finish it, that takes such complete hold of me with its magic."
Presenting Lenore: "I think a book is fundamentally flawed if you have to read it twice before you can really get into it."
Steph Sue Reads: "JELLICOE ROAD reads like someone laughing through tears."
What I Felt About...: "I have never really encountered something like Jellicoe Road in terms of structure. The structure of this one is flawless."