On My Bookshelf: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

February 29, 2016

In Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Taylor must serve as fearless leader in her school's annual "war" against the local kids and the visiting Cadets, while trying to put together her puzzle of a past. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

Why I liked it: Jellicoe Road, written by an Australian novelist and originally titled On The Jellicoe Road,  confused me at the start. The novel has two plot lines whose connection eventually becomes clear, but initially I had some difficulty figuring out what was going on in each individually. The plot line set in the past centers as five children who meet after a terrible car crash. Their story is being written, by Hannah, a character in the present plot line, and it soon becomes clear that their "story" is not fictional and has some connection to Hannah's past.
In Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Taylor must serve as fearless leader in her school's annual "war" against the local kids and the visiting Cadets, while trying to put together her puzzle of a past. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

The present plot line centers around Taylor, who has been attending the boarding school on Jellicoe Road since her mother abandoned her. Hannah has served as a motherly figure for her, but suddenly disappears leaving Taylor on her own to deal with her unexpected new position as student leader of the school. Taylor teeters between exhibiting the persona of a fearless leader and being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She has too many questions about her past and it doesn't help that Jonah Griggs, the leader of the Cadets and her enemy, is also the boy she ran away with a few years before in an attempt to locate her mother.

Taylor is supported by other strong characters. There's Raffy, another boarder at school who grew up in town. Chaz, Raffy's best friend/potential love interest and leader of the Townies. And Jonah Griggs, who is more than willing to run away with Taylor again. The four characters' interactions are dynamic and filled with humor. While the plot raised as many questions as it revealed answers along the way, it all came together in the end.

Classroom application: If you are adding this to your classroom library, it would be appropriate for high schoolers (some mentions of violence, drug use, abuse, etc. might not be appropriate for middle school). Encourage students to hang in there if they are as confused as I was at the start. They will get caught up in Taylor's saga and the "war between the boarding school students, the "townies," and the Cadets. The novel could be used in literature circles themed around coming of age or as a mentor text for parallel plots (Common Core Literature Standard #5).  

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Jellicoe Road for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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