Welcome to Forgotten Fridays. This mission of this feature is, twice a month, to review books that are more than a year old. And we review them TOGETHER! Most reviews have minor spoilers because it is hard to block them out in a back and forth dialogue about a book. So keep that in mind when reading, though we do try to not mention anything that would ruin a book for anyone.
This week Bekka and Lyn tackle Lyn’s pick: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta!
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
Bekka: I don’t even know where to start with this one. I tried to read it a few years ago but it just didn’t work out. But now I’m so glad I gave it a second chance.
Lyn: I am with you. I tried to read this one two years ago, and I was so lost, it wasn’t even funny. I think it has a lot to do with the frame of mind and your “reading level”, per se. I am with you – I am glad I gave it a second chance. I think, the first time I read, I also came away from Finnick of the Rock, and that book almost put me to sleep.
Bekka: Yeah, this book is basically two halves: the first half is all confusion and the second half is all pain. You just have to push yourself past the confusing beginning.
Lyn: Yes – very much so. I also almost DNFed this book. I seriously would have rated this book all five stars if the whole cat scene was left out. I really, really, REALLY wish that wasn’t in there. I had this same issue with Scorpio Races. That was going to be 5 stars, but the animal cruelty was too much. I think I am way too sensitive towards animal neglect, cruelty and abuse.
Bekka: I’m the same way, and that’s why I went with 4.5 (thought I rounded up on Goodreads.) So our readers know: the main character drowns a cat to “put him out of his misery.” It was so hard to read because I always picture my own cats when I read about them. And to make matters worse, it was never brought up again. It added nothing to the book.
Lyn: It wasn’t NEEDED. The cat was even part of the whole circle (I did catch that!) and it was added for shock value. That’s how I felt about the entire issue. It was thrown in just to stun the reader. I cried for a while over that part.
Alright, I feel better now that I have that off my chest.
Bekka: So anyway… The book really started to shine for me in the second half. At first I was really confused by the two story lines, but once they started coming together, holy hell. I thought the way it was written and how each character played in the story was so clever. And heartbreaking.
Lyn: THAT ENDING! THAT ROMANCE! It was amazing how the entire novel kept looping around until it made a complete circle. It really shook me to the core to see everything fall into place. Hell, I even called some of the twists, but it was so amazing how it was still able to shock you, even when you see certain things coming. Like, your heart can’t take any more, but you keep reading, and when things start falling into place, your heart keeps getting broken over and over again.
Bekka: Oh yes, that romance! JONAHHHH. I honestly didn’t expect to like him all that much, but when they had their first kiss it was over for me, I was sold. And it was just amazing how he fit in with Taylor and Santangelo and Raffy – full circle, like you said.
Lyn: I was sold by the time the car scene rolled around. The jail scene was amazing as well. This is what I LOVE to see in a romance. Little hints and teases before it becomes official. No swooning, or “can’t live without the other person”, but a slow, agonizing build-up. And Jonas was given such a wonderful backstory. He wasn’t a cardboard cut out, just waiting to become defined by romance. He was a living, breathing character. We didn’t have to listen to paragraphs upon paragraphs comparing him to gods and marble.
Bekka: And that’s how it was for all the characters. They were all so deep and rich. From Raffy to Hannah to JUDE (*cries*), they were all so real. Even the smaller characters like Jessa.
Lyn: FUCKING JUDE! JEEZUS B that was PAINFUL. The secondary characters were wonderful as well. I really enjoyed how everyone’s personal lives were very complicated as well. Also, Raffy needs her own damn book. Where the hell is the Kickstarter campaign, people??!
Bekka: Yesss Raffy. And I ship her with Santangelo so hard. SO HARD.
Lyn: I can’t even type “I also loved” because everything keeps rushing back. Also, kudos for adding in family dynamics into the story. The romance wasn’t THE plot, it was something that happened. The book also focuses on the meaning of family and how important it is to have some sort of nuclear support group. Even though family relationships are something important to everyone, I hardly see it addressed in such a serious manner in YA.
Bekka: And I love books with a “make your own family” theme. I think it’s important for teens to have adults they can depend on and trust, but they aren’t necessarily always our parents. And this book showed that side of family that I don’t think is featured very often. Kids who can’t depend on their parents still need that validation and representation in literature.
Lyn: Yes, yes they do. There is a large part of the population that lives with someone other than mom and dad, and they tend to be overlooked in YA. So agree with you.
I also enjoyed that Taylor questioned the motives of the adults, but through actions, it turned out that they were doing the best they could do in that situation. So many times, I look back over my childhood and question the motives of the adults in my life, but this book sets up the theme that adults make mistakes as well, and while they are trying to be parents, family, role models and citizens, they’re still learning a lot about life. They have the best intentions, and sometimes it sucks, but the grown ups in this novel had a lot of crap on their plate, and they were trying. Does that make any sense?
Bekka: Definitely. There is a huge theme of forgiveness in this book, not just between the kids, but also between Taylor and the adults in her life. That was part of what broke my heart – they had all been through so much, and sometimes even put each other through some of that crap, but they forgave and loved one another anyway.
Lyn: It is odd how this is one of the saddest books I have ever read, but the hope, and the joy, that I felt at the end was amazing. There is some very complex themes in this story, ones that you can’t define in plain text.
Bekka: I can’t wait to reread this one after I’ve had some distance from it. This is the kind of book you can read over again and each time discover something new you hadn’t seen before.
Lyn: You also need to take a long break before you pick it up. Don’t read if you are PMSing or having a horrible week. I couldn’t survive it if I was going through a low point.
Bekka: Yes, ALL of the feelings.
Lyn: 4 stars for me. I really wish I could make it 5 stars
Bekka: I’m going with a 4.5 – +.5 because of a great father figure, and -.5 because of the cat. In all, one of my all-time favorites for sure.
Lyn: I finally pick a good one!