Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.
Review: This book has phenomenal reviews on Goodreads, so I guess I’m in the minority for not loving it.
Seventeen-year-old Taylor is the leader of the secret “territory wars” that happen every year between the students at her boarding school, the teenagers in the nearby town, and the Cadets who camp near the school’s campus. When Taylor’s guardian, Hannah, goes missing, Taylor starts reading the manuscript that Hannah left behind. As she puts together the clues in the manuscript, she discovers her own history and the history of the territory wars.
There are a few elements of this book that I really like. First, it’s set in rural Australia, which isn’t a setting I’ve seen very often before. I also like the slow way that the pieces of Taylor’s life fall into place. The book starts out confusing because there are so many mysteries, but they are all solved by the end. I enjoyed trying to put the pieces together as Taylor uncovered more and more information. This novel is also very well-written, and I’d love to read more of Melina Marchetta’s work.
Maybe I’m too old for this book. I think teenage-me would have appreciated it more than twenties-me. I struggled with this novel because Taylor’s angst got on my nerves. The beginning of this book is so mysterious that it’s confusing, and I didn’t understand why Taylor was so overdramatic about everything. Even after finishing the book, I didn’t think she needed to be so angsty. I was constantly annoyed at her.
Most of the book focuses on the territory wars, which I may be too old to find interesting. The territory wars are a game that the teenagers play. They invade each other’s territory, take hostages, and negotiate for land around the school campus. Sometimes the players take the game too seriously, and somebody gets hurt. I found the territory wars childishly pointless. I think I would have liked the book a lot more if the wars had taken up less space. I considered giving up on the book several times because I just couldn’t get invested in the wargames story.
Finally, I wondered why Taylor’s past is a mystery at all. Why couldn’t the adults in her life just act like adults and talk to her about her parents? Why does her family history have to be a deep, dark secret? I don’t get it.
The lesson that I’m taking away from this book is “use your words.” A lot of angst can be prevented if people just talk to each other.