Friday, September 3, 2010

Absolutely Amazing: A Book Review on Jellicoe Road

There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.
Christopher Morley

That is one of my favorite quotes. I read it somewhere once, and when I was done I sat there thinking to myself how strange it is when you find a piece of yourself out in the world and something just clicks into place in your head, and you understand just a little bit more about anything and everything.

Books are my life. I can't go through a day without searching somewhere for a new book to read. I read reviews, and I even scroll through suggested readings on store websites based on books I already own. And sometimes I find something that is absolutely amazing.

So one day I stumbled onto a blog when I was supposed to be working and I read a review written about a book called Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. According to said review, this book was unbelievably incredible. Not her words, that's just my embellishment, but the point of this is that I wrote the title down, and the next time I went to B&N, I looked for the book. I grabbed the best looking copy (because I hate when spines are cracked/scuffed or pages are torn), sat on one of the itty-bitty baby benches in the kids area with my brother, and started reading the book.

No words can describe the brilliance of that opening sentence. And it wasn't a fluke, or a bit of luck, because the second sentence was just as perfect. Before I knew it I was done with the prologue, and I was just so enthralled with the story that I managed to read 70 pages before it was time to pay for our purchases. I read the book within 3 hours, then I read it a second time, and a third. I've marked my favorite passages by folding over page corners, and when I pack up to go anywhere, I take this book as my comfort book, which is a book I take with me that I know without a doubt I'll enjoy no matter what page it falls open to, just in case I end up hating one of the other 14 or so books I carry in a duffel bag with me when I know I won't be home for more than four hours at a time.

The story revolves around Taylor Markham, a teenager at boarding school who was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven. As the story unfolds, the reader is given glimpses of a manuscript that Taylor's caretaker Hannah wrote, a story that stays close to the plot as Taylor works through her struggles when things start changing around her. That amazing prologue I mentioned earlier? That's part of Hannah's manuscript. The two separate stories come together seamlessly as Taylor learns the truth about her past and comes to a better understanding about the people that surround her in her daily life.

Honestly, the plot sounds simple but it takes someone with incredible talent to make something so simple so extraordinary. I felt that the characters had a lot of depth to them, making me wish they were real in some way other than on paper. Taylor had strength and wits enough to deal with most everything that came her way but she had enough weaknesses to make her relatable to readers. Her love interest, Jonah Griggs, was never overly romantic but I swear, by the time I finished the book I was a little in love with him myself. He wasn't perfect, and that made him instantly more appealing than other book love interests I've seen in the past.

Raffy, or Raffaela, developed from a classmate into one of Taylor's best friends, and her support throughout the novel was perfect. A person is only as strong as the people that support them and that goes the same for supporting characters in novels. There are plenty of other characters in this book that I haven't named, and while some might think that too much is going on, I found it enjoyable to see that nearly everyone had some importance attached to them. They all had purpose. And Hannah...I can't even begin to talk about her without giving anything away. Suffice to say, she's awesome. Trite but true.

When I write a book, I want it to be just as brilliant as Jellicoe Road. I want to be able to interweave different timelines with ease, I want to create characters that readers care about, I want people to be satisfied in the knowledge that buying a book I wrote was a good decision. And now that I know that I want, I shall establish a plan to reach my goal. But first...

Everyone should try to read Jellicoe Road. I know it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but who knows? It may surprise you. It's not everyday I sit and find a book that changes my views about the writing process. I look forward to reading other works by Melina Marchetta. Next up? I'm going to try Finnikin of the Rock, as soon as I have the chance.

Rating: 9 Stars

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