Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Writers' Wednesday: Thoughts on Jellicoe Road

Whew! Heat wave here in the Northeast, for about the 4th straight day. It's been at least 100 the last 2 days, though I think it's finally supposed to be a little lower than that today (you know, like 95 or so). Still, that kind of heat and humidity just saps the energy out of me! Actually, over the weekend we traveled to Newport, RI, for a little getaway - beautiful! And right on the water, which tempered the weather a little. It's funny: as I was walking the streets, I thought, huh, maybe One Night in Newport has some potential as a story...all these old homes, narrow winding roads, water and boats and the mansions at night...

But I don't know if I have any more One Night books in my future. We'll see.

I did read Jellicoe Road over the weekend. I got it a while back and had really been looking forward to it, as so many people recommended it as an outstanding Young Adult novel. And I'll tell you: while it was good, it wasn't as good as I was expecting, and I think this is because IT TOOK SO LONG to get moving. I won't even try to explain the plot here, save to say that it's really two storylines, about two groups of friends, set in the same location about 20 years apart. The main character, Taylor Markham, is an angry, self-absorbed 17 year old girl who is thrust into a leader role of a House at the boarding school where she lives. She has to interact with the other House leaders as well as leaders of the other groups of kids in the town, and it goes from there. The only adult she trusts, a woman named Hannah, disappears at the beginning, and all taylor wants to do is find her...which leads to her discovery about this other group of friends and their relation to the school on Jellicoe Road.

The book is 400 pages long, and while much of the second half is compelling, the first half is so deliberately fragmented, with pieces of a mystery and unnamed characters, that it's difficult to decipher. I know this is supposed to be part of the novel's beauty, the way both storylines unfold and come together, but I just didn't care enough about the characters or the school or the "territory wars" they fight with the Townies, at least at first. By the end, however, I cared madly about them, and Taylor's friendship-romance with Jonah Griggs is beautifully developed, one of the best I've read in YA.

By why oh why does it take Melina Marchetta so long to get there? If I were a teen reader, I doubt I would have made it past page 50. And that's a shame, because as I said, the second half of the book really picks up, and the character and story resolutions are beautiful and made me cry.

Anyone else read Jellicoe Road? Thoughts?


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Charity Tahmaseb said...

I read Jellicoe Road last year and I loved it. The start is challenging, I agree. But for me, it worked.

One, I keyed into something about Taylor early on, so that helped. Also, I love the story within a story construct. I also felt I was in the hands of an excellent storyteller, so I put my trust in her and it was rewarded.

Oh, and two words: Jonah Griggs. The second he appeared on the page, I was hooked. Forget sparkly vampires, this is where it’s at. ;-)

Allie Boniface said...

Charity, I was waiting for your comment! I thought you had said you read & liked it. Yeah, Jonah