On the Jellicoe Road






Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Read: Jan. 2018

As usual, all the stars in the world for this book! Can’t re-call if this is my 4th or 5th time reading On the Jellicoe Road, but it is still just as beautiful and moving and leaves me tearing up on the couch, feeling so emotional!

I’m pretty sure I will never stop loving this book. It is just the most gorgeous writing and story! Melina Marchetta knows how to crack your heart open and writes the most moving characters!

On the Jellicoe Road is a bit of an older YA book now, published in 2006, and is set in rural Australia. It definitely has one of the more bizarre-sounding plots, and I will admit to being a little bit confused the first time I read it because there’s a lot of characters and I didn’t realize at first that the story was switching between two different points of view, so I’ll warn readers about that up front. The main story is told by Taylor Markham, but everything that’s italicized is a different point of view.

The novel is set at a boarding school called Jellicoe, which is located about 7 hours drive from Sydney, right next to Jellicoe Town. Every year from September to November, a group of cadets come to Jellicoe to practice their outdoor skills and set up camp in the woods for 6 weeks. There are three main factions: the kids boarding at the Jellicoe school, the Cadets, and the Townies, who live and go to school in Jellicoe Town. During the 6 weeks that the Cadets visit every year, the Townies, Cadets, and Jellicoe School have a secret war going on behind the teacher’s backs and duke it out to win territory from each other.

This year Taylor has been selected as the leader of the Jellicoe School. Taylor has an unfortunate history and was abandoned by her mother on the Jellicoe Road when she was just 11 years old. She was picked up by Hannah, who lives in a small house next to the school and spends the next 5 years attending the school. Taylor knows very little about her past and struggles with the pain she feels about being abandoned by her mother and hesitates to let anyone into her life. She is tested when at the beginning of term, Hannah, the only person who’s ever been there for her, disappears. Taylor wants more from the people in her life, but she’s afraid to love or let anyone in lest they abandon her too.

The only thing Hannah leaves behind for Taylor is an unfinished manuscript about 5 kids and a tragic accident that happened on the Jellicoe Road 22 years earlier. Taylor is confused by the story, but starts developing an attachment to Hannah’s characters, wondering if they might have more to do with her past than she realizes.

Every single thing about this story is beautiful. The best thing I’ve always loved about Marchetta’s writing is the bonds and relationships she creates between her characters. Marchetta really understands friendships and our need as humans to belong to something. Taylor is slowly falling apart in this novel and I love watching the relationships she builds with the other kids in the story and how they become friends and support each other. I love how each character has this incredible backstory that brings so much depth to the novel. I love that even Marchetta’s minor characters are fully realized individuals and that every character matters. There are never throw away characters in Melina’s novels.

This is ultimately a story about growing up and self discovery. As someone who has been shuffled around, Taylor craves history and I love the history Marchetta creates between each of the characters. Many of them are very broken people and I love watching them grow throughout the novel. Plus, the writing is so dreamy. I think the manuscript is really well written, but I also love Taylor’s inner monologue. There are so many great quotes in this book and it hits me right in the feels every time I read it.

You do not have to be a teenager to enjoy this book. It actually has some pretty dark and mature themes and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone! Please read, it is by far one of my most favourite books of all time!

Looking for Alibrandi






Rating: ⭐
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Read: Jan. 2018

This is a tough one to review because I’m not quite sure how I felt about this book. Looking for Alibrandi was Melina Marchetta’s first book and it’s been on my TBR for a very long time. On the Jellicoe Road is the first Marchetta book I read and it still remains my favourite of her books (and one of my favourite books of all time). I keep hoping that one of her other books will be better than Jellicoe Road, but they never are.

This was a fun book. I really liked Josie. She was spunky and I laughed out loud at her more than once. I haven’t read a YA book like this one in a while and sinking into Marchetta’s writing is like sinking into a hot bath. It feels so nice and comforting. I didn’t love Looking for Alibrandi and I did take issue with the main romantic relationship in the novel, but I also appreciate what Melina did with this book.

Josephine Alibrandi is in her final year of high school and she’s determined to do well on her HSC exams so that she can become a barrister (it’s set in Australia). Josie has never quite taken herself seriously and sees herself as an outcast because of her heritage. Her grandparents moved to Australia from Italy in the 1940’s and she’s been raised heavily Italian. Her mom became pregnant with her at 17, alienating herself from her family, and raised Josie on her own, without any support from Josie’s father.

Josie struggles to belong because of her heritage and because she goes to a catholic high school, she is largely shamed because of her single mother. She’s had a crush on do-gooder John Barton for years, but she finds herself enamoured with the rough-around-the-edges Jacob Coote after she meets him at a regional school event. To top things off, when her father unexpectedly shows up in Sydney, she knows she’s in for a whirlwind senior year.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, the biggest of which was the insight Marchetta provides into race relationships in Australia. Many of the Australians are actively racist against the families that immigrated from Italy and Greece in the 1940’s and 1950’s and there’s an interesting dynamic between Josie and some of her classmates. I enjoyed when Josie learned about her Italian heritage and how she learned to accept it and appreciate it.

I also liked the relationship she built with her father and the dynamic between her and the rest of her family. Her relationship with her mother and grandmother felt very real. At first you wonder if any of them actually like each other and they all seem a bit bipolar in how they treat one another, but when I think of my family and how we can one minute all be screaming at each other and the next minute happily sitting down for dinner, it rings true of that special bond that you can have with your family that I’ve never experienced in any other friendship.

The reason I liked Josie’s relationship with her Dad though is that it was so anti-dramatic. Children finding their birth parents always has a super dramatic and emotional narrative, but I loved that Josie was so secure in herself and her family relationships that meeting her father was just an event that happened to her. She never felt like she was lacking anything and when she finally did meet her father, it was just this interesting opportunity to get to know him. I never felt emotionally manipulated by the author in any of the relationships.

Now, to the part I didn’t like: Jacob Coote. Am I supposed to like this character? He reminded me a little of Rhett Bulter in Gone With the Wind in that he never conformed to what Josie wanted him to be and was the only one her called her out on her bullshit. I feel like we’re supposed to like him for refusing to change himself, but I never liked Rhett and I didn’t like Jacob either. He was just straight up not reasonable and in my opinion, not really respectful either. He gave Josie shit about stuff that I didn’t think was any of his business, like her relationship with John Barton and her opinions of when to have sex. And when he complained about meeting her mom and then kicked up a stink when she didn’t want him to meet her grandmother? Get over yourself Jacob and respect Josie!

Anyways, I was still pretty pleased with how this book went and it’s given me a huge hankering to re-read Jellicoe Road. The Piper’s Son is now the only Marchetta book I haven’t read, so I’ll need to get around to that one too!

My recommendation would be to skip this book and go straight to Jellicoe Road!