Keertana's Reviews > On the Jellicoe Road

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
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it was amazing
bookshelves: aussie, life-changing, favorites, swoooon, teary-eyed-reads, books-that-linger, beautiful-prose

I finished this remarkable novel a little past midnight, my eyes red and blotchy from crying, my face streaked with dried-up tears, and my soul a little lighter, a little happier, and a lot more hopeful than it ever has been before. On the Jellicoe Road is, without a doubt, Melina Marchetta's most profound, heart-wrenching, and ultimately best book. It goes without saying that this woman is a Goddess of Literature. She has an unrivaled command over words, an ability to make even the most stoic hearts melt, and her stories make you see the world in an entirely new light. I cannot give this book or its author enough praise and I cannot write a review that can possibly do justice to this book, but I can try.

Most people have that one moment that changes their life forever - Taylor Markham had two. The first was when her mother abandoned her at the age of 11 in a 7-Eleven near Jellicoe Road, the location of a boarding school for children who are neglected or have violent/criminal tendencies. The second was when Hannah, Taylor's mentor, friend, and care-taker, mysteriously abandons her without a word, leaving the school and leaving behind 17-year-old Taylor, who is now in charge of a game of territory wars with the Townies, locals from neighboring towns, and the Cadets, who happen to spend several weeks in the wilderness. Taylor, who isn't even sure that she can handle her new-found role of responsibility, is now forced to become a leader, take on Jonah Griggs, the leader of the Cadets, who happens to know her far better than she'd like simply because they shared a past, and do her best not to worry about Hannah's disappearance which may or may not have something to do with her mother, all while suffering from a recurring dream of a young boy who is desperately trying to tell her something. On the Jellicoe Road is Taylor's story - the tale of her past, her present, the answers to all the unanswered questions in her life, and ultimately, it is a remarkable journey of heart-break, sorrow, and hope.

When I first began On the Jellicoe Road I thought I had finally stumbled upon a Marchetta story I wouldn't like. The beginning was good, interesting, and even mildly gripping, but it by no means led me to understand the hype surrounding this novel. I was confused beyond measure by various elements of the plot and I very nearly gave up on it - but then, it started to creep up on me. I had set it down for a few hours to finish some work, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had to know what happened. I had to know who the "Fucked-Up Five" were. I had to know how their story related to Taylor's. On the Jellicoe Road is not simply the story of Taylor, it is also the story of her entire family, before she even came to be. It is a profound and moving tale that explores topics of far more depth and sorrow than Marchetta has ever explored in the past. It is a story about death, murder, guilt, and depression, but it is also a story of hope, forgiveness, love, and honor. It is a story about finding the people who truly care about you in life and learning to never take what you have - or who you have - for granted.

On the Jellicoe Road is told primarily from Taylor’s POV, but it also contains glimpses into the past – into a friendship that came before Taylor and a love so strong it existed after her. Speaking of love, there is so much of it in this book. Each and every friendship, relationship, and romance was beautiful and touching. I don’t think I’ve ever come to care for characters as much as I cared for the cast of On the Jellicoe Road. Taylor, Jonah, Raffy, Jude, Hannah, Santangelo, Jessa, Webb…the list goes on and on. There wasn’t a single character I didn’t feel deeply for, a single character for which I didn’t wish utter happiness and didn’t feel their complete despair. There are such few stories in this world that have purposeful characters who are each understood by the reader just as well as the narrator, but On the Jellicoe Road is one of those few books.

Although Marchetta is primarily a contemporary YA writer, I am somehow constantly surprised by the depth of her love stories. Her romances are slow to build, taking their time, introducing each character until you are practically dying of anticipation for them to get together and when they finally do, it is so sweet, so perfect, and so human that you cannot help but sob from joy. That is quality and vibrancy of emotion that Marchetta sparks. Jonah Griggs is definitely by favorite Marchetta boy of them all – I love him more than Will Trombal, more than Tom Mackee, more than Jimmy Hailler, more than Finnikin and Froi, more than any other character I have ever come across. In some ways, his sorrow felt deeper, sadder, and more tangible to me than Taylor’s did and I loved him all the more for it. I loved him for his understanding of Taylor when no one else did. I loved him for being able to read her mind so perfectly. I loved him for his jealousy, his possessiveness, his confidence, his vulnerability, his need to be loved just as much as everyone else. If you take only one thing away from this book, it will most likely be that you need a Jonah Griggs in your life, because I definitely need one in mine.

I know my review is vague, but I don't want to say anything more about this story. I didn't know much about it before I began and I would have been terribly upset if I understood the full complexity of this plot before I read it. This is a story that is meant to be read and felt by putting together the pieces yourself and making sense of what it means - not only in the book, but to yourself as well. I feel as if each and every one of Marchetta's novels has a profound impact on her readers, but all in a different and unique way. I myself can't say what it was that affected me so deeply, but Marchetta is able to capture human emotions, human nature, and human feeling so perfectly, that you cannot help but feel the sadness of each character. Sorrow is a feeling that is impossible to describe, yet Marchetta manages to create a story that describes this sorrow and makes it tangible, but not to the point where it crushes it, but to the point where it brings you hope and the strength to overcome your own hurdles and fears in life. Whatever it may be, On the Jellicoe Road is truly inspirational. If Taylor can go through everything she's been through, if her friends and family can suffer through their sorrow and pull through in the end, then so can I, so can you, the reader, so can anyone in the world. This feeling of hope that Marchetta inspires is so palpable that you can feel it blooming inside you long after you have closed the cover of the novel. I can't articulate how perfect this book was, but it was beautiful. Love cannot even come close to summarizing what I feel about this book. It is one that I will treasure and keep close to my heart - always.
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Quotes Keertana Liked

Melina Marchetta
“Is a person worth more because they have someone to grieve for them?”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking. Jonah Griggs takes my hand under the table and links my fingers with his and I know that I would sacrifice almost anything just to keep this state of mind, for the rest of the week at least.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“He stops and looks at me. 'I'm here because of you. You're my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don't think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“When I turn around, he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don't know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don't know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it already.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“When it was over, she gathered him in her arms. And told him the terrible irony of her life.
That she had wanted to be dead all those years while her brother had been alive. That had been her sin.
And this was her penance.
Wanting to live when everyone else seemed dead.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“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.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road
tags: humor, ya

Melina Marchetta
“He is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and it's not about his face, but the life force I can see in him. It's the smile and the pure promise of everything he has to offer. Like he's saying, 'Here I am world, are you ready for so much passion and beauty and goodness and love and every other word that should be in the dictionary under the word life?' Except this boy is dead, and the unnaturalness of it makes me want to pull my hair out with Tate and Narnie and Fitz and Jude's grief all combined. It makes me want to yell at the God that I wish I didn't believe in. For hogging him all to himself. I want to say, 'You greedy God. Give him back. I needed him here.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
“If you weren't driving, I'd kiss you senseless," I tell him.
He swerves to the side of the road and stops the car abruptly.
"Not driving any more.”
Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road


Reading Progress

April 10, 2012 – Shelved
May 13, 2012 – Shelved as: aussie
May 24, 2012 – Started Reading
May 24, 2012 –
page 111
38.28% "I'm tearing up already...only Melina Marchetta could make my eyes water before I've even read half of the book. Only her."
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: life-changing
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
May 25, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 3, 2012 – Shelved as: swoooon
July 3, 2012 – Shelved as: teary-eyed-reads
July 3, 2012 – Shelved as: books-that-linger
December 22, 2012 – Shelved as: beautiful-prose

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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Alexa *bites nails*


Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Yes! I hope you love it


Keertana I'm loving it so far! The first couple of chapters were really confusing, but it's all coming together so beautifully now. Only Melina Marchetta could write something this poignant and heartbreaking...it's truly beautiful :)


Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) BEAUTIFUL.

I want to quote your own review to you, because it is dead on.

"my soul a little lighter, a little happier, and a lot more hopeful than it ever has been before."

This is perfect - exactly how I felt when finishing. Wistful that I had finished but grateful for the experience.

"On the Jellicoe Road is told primarily from Taylor’s POV, but it also contains glimpses into the past – into a friendship that came before Taylor and a love so strong it existed after her. "

JUDE <3

And yes to everything about Jonah Griggs. He is the best character and I love his anger his sorrow and his immense kindness.

Great review, Keertana! I love it. I may unlike it later so I can re-like it again.


Keertana Aww, thank you Jessie! You have no idea how much this means to me! For me, writing a Melina Marchetta review has to be one of the hardest things I do, simply because I find it so difficult to articulate all the feelings and emotions her novels inspire in me, so thank you for your encouraging words!(:

I love Jude and Jonah as well - their stories and romances were heart-breaking. Was this your first Melina Marchetta novel? I've read everything by her except Looking for Alibrandi, her debut novel. Ironically, even though I think On the Jellicoe Road is Marchetta's strongest story, Saving Francesca is still my favorite by a tiiiny bit. I can't wait to see what you think about it once you finally read it! Still, none of the Marchetta boys can compare to Jonah - he is the best by far ;)


Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) It is so hard to review things that you love, isn't it? How to translate epic fangirling is hard, but you did it well :)

I haven't read any other by her -- yet. That will be changing soon. :D


Keertana Thank you! :D It is harder to review books you love opposed to those you don't. You always think it'll be easier or that it will get easier with time, but it never does for those truly amazing books.

I can't wait to see what you think of her other novels! They are all amazing and utterly beautiful, so I'm sure you'll love them! :)


message 8: by Jenni (new) - added it

Jenni Ahhh you make me want to catch a bus to the bookstore this VERY SECOND!!


Keertana YAY! You should do it, Jenni, because this is SO GOOD! Believe me, you won't regret running to a bookstore and buying this - and every one of Melina Marchetta's other books - at ALL! They are SO worth it! :D


message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin I love what you have to say about the characters, and about MM's skill in portraying human nature, human interactions. I can't honestly think of another book I've read where I felt the same fondness for the characters and the same belief that they could actually exist in the real world. Now if only I could find them!


Keertana Thanks Erin! I absolutely agree, though. I often want to re-read this, but then I know I'm just going to be SO sad and depressed for awhile, but I really do need to read it again. I wish I could find them too...I really do. I know MM is making a film of this, though, so I have a feeling it'll be brilliant! I can't wait! :)


message 12: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin This book would be so fantastic to re-read, though. I already glanced through some of the opening chapters after finishing and my jaw dropped at some of the little hints I missed the first time.


Keertana I know, right? I really need to re-read it next year for sure. I have a feeling I'll just love it all the more the second time around.


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