Saturday, August 18, 2012

One year later: why I love Jellicoe Road

by Melina Marchetta
Read: August 2011 - a year ago!
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library book. Then purchase!
Category: YA (older teens)

Jellicoe Road was one of my favorite reads of 2011. In fact, it's one of the best books I've EVER read (yes, you heard that right). I wish I'd discovered it sooner. In reading other reviews or talking to friends to whom I've recommended it, I've found that people either LOVED Jellicoe Road or they couldn't get into the story. The most common complaint I've heard is that it is confusing for the first 100 pages, and people lose interest. For those of you that don't get my love for this book, or want to gush along with me, I'm going to tell you why I love Jellicoe Road
Get ready.

To find the book description click HERE.

Some slight SPOILERS throughout but I warn before you get to them.

 5 reasons (for 5 stars!) of why Jellicoe Road is one of my favorite books of all time:

1. The Writing - Melina Marchetta's writing style is gorgeous and lyrical, and throughout Jellicoe Road she produces an abundance of profound statements and quotable quotes that blew me away. 
I remember love. It's what I have to keep on reminding myself. It's funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that's why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It's not the pain they're getting over, it's the love.
2. Slowly Revealing Characters (or I love Jonah Griggs)- I love how the characters in Jellicoe Road were revealed to the reader throughout the course of the novel. Take Jonah Griggs for instance. I love him. He holds a very special place in my heart. But the first things we learn about Jonah are that he is a "thug" and violent. And when Taylor sees him in the book, she says,
Jonah Griggs is a tank. His face is blunter, meaner than I remember. Hair cropped. Eyes cold. Arms folded. He has perfected the art of looking straight at someone while avoiding eye contact.
What has made him that way? And how can he be all those things and still be one of my favorite male characters of all time? READ the book and find out. 

3. Melodrama - Maybe this isn't everyone's favorite thing about Marchetta's writing. But I love how well she captures the big emotions of teens - both highs and lows. Her characters say and do outrageous things. And teenagers are all about drama (or at least I was). So I love it. The melodrama also helps to balance out the serious, emotional parts of the story. (This quote may be a SPOILER:)
"This is the best night of my life," Raffy says, crying.
"Raffy, half our House has burnt down," I say wearily. "We don't have a kitchen."
"Why do you always have to be so pessimistic?" she asks. "We can double up in our rooms and have a barbecue every night like the Cadets."
Silently I vow to keep Raffy around for the rest of my life.
4. Re-Readability (is that a word?) - I could literal flip to ANY page in Jellicoe Road and start reading and get lost in the book again. It is rare - to nonexistent - when I love EVERY moment of a story. This is that book for me. 
I fall in love with these kids over and over again and my heart aches for their tragedies and marvels at their friendship. And it’s like we’ve been talking for five minutes instead of five hours. 
5. Showing not Telling - Marchetta is the master at writing scene that seem simple and insignificant, but say SO MUCH about her characters (I mentioned this about Maggie Stiefvater in my review of Scorpio Races - they both do this well). 

This is the biggest reason why I love Jellicoe Road so I'm going to spend some time on it. My example is a SPOILER (sorry!), though it does not reveal details about the plot. Read it at your discretion. 

Part of Jellicoe Road is about Taylor trying to figure out who she is and how she fits into the world.
These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking. 
At some point in the book, Taylor is standing in line at a cafĂ© with Jonah, and she's watching the "cheerful" employees know their customer's orders before they say anything. 
And I wish they'd do the same with me. Just look up and recognize me and know exactly what I order every day.
Taylor's so depressed by this, that she's become a bit moody. And possibly isn't paying attention when it's her turn at the counter.
Griggs orders coffee and bacon and eggs for himself then looks at me. I shrug.
"White toast and marmalade and hot chocolate," he say, and it doesn't surprise me just how much he's taken in about me.
That is one of my favorite scenes of the book, because it's just one small moment in the story. But in those few lines you realize that Taylor has what she's been wishing for all along. She does have people who care about her, including Jonah. He knows exactly what to order her for breakfast without her having to say anything. I still get chills thinking about that scene.

Lest you think I'm blinded by my love for this book, I will say one thing that slightly bothered me about the story.  I did figure some things out way before the main characters did. BUT all the reasons I LOVED the book far outweighed this small detail. So it's still 5 stars for me!

What is your favorite scene or quote in Jellicoe Road?

Rating: 5 STARS!
Love Triangle Factor: None!



  1. I love this book too! After I read J.Rd. I knew it would stay with me forever, and it has. Yeah, it's got BIG drama, LOTS of it, but in many ways I still think of it as a quiet story, if that makes sense? It was confusing to me in the beginning, but I knew to stick with it, and when everything started to come together at last, I was already so far gone and in love with the characters and the writing that there was no way I wasn't going to love the story, no matter the way it is told:)

    It's so amazing to me that Marchetta can be so very versatile. It blows my mind that the same woman who has written Finnikin and Froi has also written Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca. But I guess all of her works are what they are because of her character studies and her uncanny knack for understanding the human condition and being able to write it in such a beautiful way. Such an amazing talent!

    Great post, Lauren:)

    1. Oh yes! I agree with this. I read some reviews of Jellicoe before I actually picked up the book, so knowing to expect "confusion" really helped me. You know, I had a panic this afternoon when I realized that I have never read Looking for Alibrandi. I need to fix that NOW. I don't know why I always forget about that one. Have you read it?

      I agree with what you said about MM's characters and her understanding of "the human condition," coupled with her beautiful writing. I've read several interviews (including this recent one:, where she talked about her characters in different novels being "twins" of each other. So Will/Francesca are like Finnikin/Isaboe (idealist vs pragmatist) and Taylor/Jonah are like Froi/Quintana (both broken). There are others mentioned (Lucian and Tom for instance), but I think there is a magic in how she creates her characters and the relationships between them.

  2. Oh my gracious I am so in love with this book. I agree about the confusion at the beginning but like you guys, I knew about it going into it and planned to push through it. What I didn't plan was to read it in one sitting but I couldn't help it!

    The characterization is amazing. I loved them all and I felt like I was a part of the story. But my favorites were The Hermit and of course, Jonah Griggs. I will always say that I want more about Jonah. He's such a great character and I could read an entire book (perhaps a companion?) about his story or his point-of-view or something. It was not necessarily a book crush - MM just wrote an amazing character that I wanted more of...

    In a rare moment, I actually shed some tears at the end of this one.

    I haven't read Alibrandi either!

    1. Yes. More Jonah, please! I heard MM say recently that she may write another book about his brother Danny. So maybe he'll show up there. The Mullet brothers and Ben were in Piper's Son and I seriously kept HOPING that he and Taylor would be there too. But alas, no dice. I can't wait to see him come to life in film, though.

    2. In film? Wait, is there a movie in the works? Oh wow.

    3. She's been writing a script and I know that actors have done read throughs. But I don't know where they're at in casting/filming.


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