Review: Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta

One definite conclusion I have reached from the first half of no-spoilers September is that reading the end sometime saves you misunderstanding the point of a book. I was sure Jellicoe Road was a good fit for the RIP Challenge, a dark gothic fantasy orphan boarding school book. When really all along it was a dark family tragedy orphan boarding school book. Happily for me and my reading experience, I like family tragedy nearly as much as gothic fantasy, so this disparity made me merely muddled, and not ultimately dissatisfied.

Orphan Taylor Markham is the leader of the Jellicoe School army, which must defend its territory against the Cadets and the Townies in a war that has been going on since long before any of them were born. But the lines between the students, the Townies, and the Cadets become fuzzy when Taylor’s longtime guardian Hannah disappears without a word, and Taylor begins to learn more about her own past, and how it relates to a car accident that happened on the Jellicoe Road over two decades ago.

While I was reading this book, I was sometimes bewildered and flipping backward (but never forth! I am a woman of my word!) because of how many characters there were. I was not always immediately able to keep them straight. Fortunately a quick glance at the other reviews, using the Book Blogs Search Engine created by the lovely and brilliant Fyrefly (this blatant plug brought to you by Book Blogger Appreciation Week because I seriously appreciate the hell out of that search engine), revealed to me that everyone found this book bewildering. Hooray! Or, well, semi-hooray. Hooray that I am not alone, and unhooray that when you read this book, and I think you should, you may experience some confusion because the characters are many and sometimes difficult to keep straight.

Apart from that one problem, I loved Jellicoe Road. Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I was absolutely sucked in and couldn’t stop reading. Marchetta manages to make the reader feel that a lot is at stake in the characters’ relationships, without any of them becoming overwrought. High-stakes relationships are lovely to read about, but hard to sustain, and Marchetta manages it at least partly by never giving anyone a pause to catch their breath. The characters suffer, fairly endlessly, but not unreasonably much, not so much that you start thinking, Oh, come on, you’re just trying to think of more and more and more things to do to them; which is something I start thinking pretty quickly with depressing books.

Rereading may turn up a different reaction, because the more I think about it, the more I cannot believe how much pain and suffering the characters all go through. But on this first reading, I was whipping through at a breakneck pace because I was dying to find out what happened the kids in Hannah’s book, and what was going to happen to Taylor and Hannah and Jonah Griggs and the Brigadier. I am excited to read more by this author, and I have checked out a book by her that actually is fantasy and I assume from past experience is dark, so I can read that for the RIP Challenge instead of this.

Who else read it:

Book Addiction
Necromancy Never Pays
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes
Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?
It’s All About Books
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
bookshelves of doom
Persnickety Snark
my fluttering heart
Inkweaver Review
The Children’s Literature Book Club
Teen Book Review
Maggie Reads
Random Thoughts from a Random Teen
Dear Author

If I have missed yours I will gladly add a link!