This title by Melina Marchetta is a truly beautiful young adult book sitting in the cross over to adult fiction, and is definitely a stand out read of my teenage years. The complex main character is 17 year old Taylor Markham, whose at a boarding school called the Jellicoe School in New South Wales. She has practically no memory of her father and was abandoned roadside by her mother as a young girl. On The Jellicoe Road is Taylor’s story, as she tries to untangle the mystery of her past.
At school, holding positions of responsibility that seem of little consequence to her, Taylor has power despite not being particularly popular, known to be unreliable and distant. Taylor must lead Jellicoe in the territory wars between the Jellicoe school and the Cadets who are from a school in Sydney along with the Townies. The leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs is a strong and eventually important male character which helps the book appeal to boys more than Marchetta’s previous books.
Written parallel to Taylor’s story is excerpts from a manuscript written by the woman who found Taylor who lives on the school grounds, Hannah. Hannah is the only adult that Taylor has any faith in, faith which is ripped away when Hannah disappears early in the book, which really throws the fragile Taylor for a loop. The story is of five teens who lived on the Jellicoe road twenty years before the relevance of which is cloudy at first but becomes more and more intriguing until you just can’t figure it out and can’t wait for all to be revealed.
The story has a mix of romance, mystery and a whole lot of tension. As the book progresses at times painfully slowly, readers must be patient as all the signposts and clues come together. Taylor’s erratic journey to grow from a conflicted and confused teenage into a calm and collected young woman is tumultuous and, as a reader, absolutely riveting.