by Melina Marchetta (website | twitter)
Released: 03.09.2010 (U.S.)
Publishers: HarperCollins, 492 pages (U.S.paperback)
Awards & Honors: Australian Book Industry Award Nominee for Book of the Year for Older Children (2007), Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2008), Printz Award (2009), Queensland Premier's Literary Awards Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2007), W.A. Young Readers Book Award (WAYRA) for Older Readers (2008), W.A. Young Readers Book Award (WAYRA) for Older Readers (2008), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2009)
Source: Giveaway I won through the Aussie YA Reading Challenge 2011
REVIEW: Confession time: I have an Author Crush on Melina Marchetta. Oh, it's amazing. You ever feel like you know an author just by reading the books she writes? That's me and Melina. We could be sitting across from each other in a cafe, look up and see each other. She'd wave, and I'd wave back, because you know, we know each other, the author and her reader. And then she'd look at me like I was crazy, and then I'd realize that she was waving at the person behind me. And I'd feel like an asshole.
And I do. Feel like an asshole that is. Because me and Jellicoe Road? We didn't work out. And now I feel like I've book cheated on Melina, the author who brought me true love with Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son.
How? How did this happen? This book is almost universally praised. And here's the odd thing: it still made me bawl like a little baby. This book haunted my thoughts after I closed the back cover. I thought about it all night. I was deeply emotionally invested in Taylor's welfare. And I hated it, hated that, except for Jonah, Taylor didn't get a break once in the book. I wanted to wring this book's neck like a chicken and stick it in the oven, but not to eat it. I just wanted to make sure the book was really dead so it would stop pecking at my mind. Because it's still haunting me. I've got a ghost book chicken standing behind me, and it keeps following. Which is why I am writing this review. I'd originally planned on rereading Jellicoe Road later in the year, thinking that a second go would be just the thing. I think I still will, but I have to put this one to rest for the time being by writing it out.
The prologue? Heartbreaking and beautiful. It sold me, and convinced me to read the entire story in one sitting. And then the confusion started. The story is told primarily from Taylor's point-of-view, but mixed in at a steady pace are these italicized stories that don't seem to have anything to do with the present. Since they didn't seem to have anything to do with Taylor, I found myself in a 'what-the-hell' state because of them. When the connection was made, I was too far into the book to really care about the characters much except for backstory. Which is a shame since the backstory is majorly connected to Taylor and who she is. I would've never guessed it from the first half of the book, which centers on a territory war between Taylor's school, the townie kids, and the cadets from a military school who camp nearby for part of the year. The territory war had a serious tone to it, like Richard Cormier's The Chocolate War. It felt very dark and ominous to me, and it was over something that I would have loved had it been more 'capture-the-flag', but instead, it was a serious issue where people got hurt. Mixed in were Taylor's reoccurring dreams about a mysterious boy, and I was at loss as to where the plot was going. All I knew was that Taylor was adrift in a large state of confusion and emotional turmoil, and the one adult she could depend on (her house leader, Hannah) had disappeared without a way to contact her.
While some of the humor that Machetta so masterfully can mix into realistic and difficult situations started appearing in the second half of the book, by that time I was. . . reading just to finish it, because I did want to find out where this was going and what would happed to Taylor. She's a hell of a character - tough, anti-social, practical, and has aching well under her heart so well-covered that she doesn't even know it's there until Hannah splits. And I really, truly loved her. I realize that love-interest Jonah gets a lot of praise from readers, but the real hero here is Taylor. No person should face everything she had thrown at her, and while, yes, this does happen, taking it all in one book is what kept me up after finishing it. I would write you a list of all the horrifying things that she had to deal with, but it would be spoils galore. By the time I got to one of the final things, I just threw up my hands and said, "Really! Really?!" It was punch, after punch, after punch. And I know it's a bit bizarre to talk about characters like they're real people, but there could be a real Taylor. I'm sure there is. I just kept thinking about how she is going to have to deal with theses losses again and again throughout her life, and my heart just kept breaking for her more and more. And that's why I was angry. Because no matter how good she can get her life to be, it's never going to come close to the life she deserves.
I vow to read this book again, I keep feeling like there must be something I missed, some redemptive quality that would tell me that Taylor's future would bring the love and heartbreak of Hannah, her parents and their friends' full circle, that I could bet that her future would be better supported and nurtured than her past. Based on past precedent, I couldn't, and more than anything else, that's the thing that's kept this book haunting me: doubt that Taylor will get some measure of happiness in her life.