book thoughts // on the jellicoe road by melina marchetta

(Note: Regrets in advance if this is wordy and makes little sense. Basically I love this book a whole heap and this isn't intended to be a proper review, simply some thoughts. Also, my library copy of On the Jellicoe Road isn't photogenic at all, so I've made a little mood collage courtesy of Pinterest. Obviously, none of the photos are mine.)

'Hold my hand,' she said sobbing against him. 'Hold my hand because I might disappear.' 
- On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Last weekend I spent close to five hours lying on my bed wrapped up in a book: On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I loved every minute of those hours. A week later it's still in my head. Taylor and Jonah and Raffey and Hannah and Jude and the rest of them are still in my head. You know those moments that remind you why you love reading? This novel, for me, is a string of those moments.

The Jellicoe Road is a place to die, to be abandoned, and to fight. Taylor Markham's mum left her there as a child, left her in the shelter of Hannah, left her to find her way amongst the boarders at Jellicoe School. Now she's the leader of the boarders, determined to gain ground in the secret, interschool territory wars, determined to figure out where Hannah's disappeared to and why. Clues in a story about a group of friends on the Jellicoe Road some twenty years before hand and forced encounters with friends she'd rather forget start to unravel Taylor's past. And every time she dreams, it's of the same boy in the same tree; she tells him the mixed up stories of all she knows of her life.

Taylor isn't the most likeable character; she's fierce, selfish, and desperate. She has a hard time letting people into herself and she doesn't mess around if you get on her wrong side. I loved reading about Taylor's interactions with the other characters, specifically with her 'friendship' group. You have Raffaela and Ben, who she used to hang out with in Year 8; Chaz Santangelo, leader of the Townies in the Territory Wars, son of the local police officer and childhood friend of Raffey's who knows more than he lets on; Jonah Griggs, leader of the Cadets in the Territory Wars, who, a few years ago, thwarted Taylor's escape to Sydney to find her mum and is every bit as stubborn, broken and complicated as her; and Jessa, a younger boarder in Taylor's charge, who asks too many questions. These kids are intense, emotionally damaged, and they clash in every scene. Each character holds their own misconceptions of the others and I loved watching those misconceptions being torn apart. The grew-up-in-a-small-country-town part of me can live and breathe their frustratingly connected community, their meetings in a Scout Hall, and their rivalry over the bush. There are so many little scenes that made me smile if only to know that's exactly how the given situation would play out in real life. It's refreshing to read something set mostly outside of the city and so Australian, you know.

On the Jellicoe Road thrust me back and forth between emotions. I found wanting to grin ridiculously and wanting to weep profusely in turn, within the same chapter even. I was also thrust between stories, and the whole within a story plot device is something I really truly love. Hannah's manuscript tells the story of another group of friends - Tate, Jude, Narnie, Webb, and Fitz - growing up in the same place twenty years prior. Excerpts of the manuscript are scattered, without order, throughout the chapters, and, at first, I struggled to piece it together, but in the end I loved this kids as much as the present-day gang. I think something Melina Marchetta does really well is to show the emotions and interactions of young people in a way that isn't condescending or pretentious, but just real. She shows all the fierce fire of youth and all the mistakes and all the jokes in between. I love the way she writes friendships, like their alive and breathing and something to be held closely in case you lose them.

So if you don't like raw, messy stories or open endings or happiness and pain on the same page or fighting (a little stupidly, let's be honest) over bushland or slightly weird dreams or someone loving their friend while wishing to push them into the path of an oncoming vehicle, you might not want to read On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. But if you do, and if this sort of review made any sense, maybe pick it up and let me know what you think. I often say I don't have favourite authors and the times I actually physically cry while readings are because of the writing, but I think Melina Marchetta is up there with the best, guys. She's a truly talented human.


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