Thursday, August 27, 2009

REVIEW: Jellicoe Road

Machetta, M.  (2008).  Jellicoe Road.  New York:  Harper Teen.


Finally got around to reading this year's Printz winner!

Originally published in 2006, in Machetta's homeland, Australia, this story, set in the Australian bush, crosses time to share the events on Jellicoe Road and their repercussions for students at the Jellicoe School, the cadets who camp near by for six weeks and the townies.  

The majority of the narrative follows Taylor, a seventeen-year-old girl who has just been chosen to lead her school's underground community in a battle over territory lines with the cadets and the townies.  Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when Taylor was twelve, Hannah, the woman who has been her guardian since then, has left.  Adding to her turmoil, a boy, Jonah Griggs, who Taylor ran away with in a quest to find her mother several years ago and who betrayed their location to the school and Brigadier is back as the leader of the cadets.

The narratives of the past, arguably sections of a book one of the characters is working on, provide insights into Taylor's situation and her relationship with some of the adults in the area.

A complicated text full of contrasts and parallels, Jellicoe Road seems very confusing for the first 20 or 30 pages.  After that, interest in the story and Taylor's wit, toughness and struggles as a leader captured my interest.  But then around page 80 or 90, I began to see how the different narratives from the past and present began to weave together and I began to make connections.  That's when I became totally engrossed and didn't want to put the book down.  So, readers be warned, get through the confusing beginning and it will be worth it.

Now, I don't want to rush things.  I'll have to read Saving Francesca and Looking for Alibrandi, but I think I may have to add Melina Marchetta to the list of authors I'd like to marry.


This is a good sample text to share with students to show examples of parallels, contrasts and foils.

Doing some research on Australia would probably help to flesh out some of the details of the text:  their education system, the appearance of the bush, the uniforms cadets wear, etc.  A teacher could also use this book to trigger a refresher on metric measurements.

Jellicoe Road could also be used to encourage students to make and organize notes on the characters to help students to make connections.

Quotes of Note:

"My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.
I counted.
It happened on the Jellicoe Road.  The prettiest road I'd ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-la" (p. 1).

"Someone asked us later, "Didn't you wonder why no one came across you sooner?"
Did I wonder?
When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they're some kind of garbage, don't you know?
Wonder dies" (p. 2).

"I don't know where I fit in.  One day when I was eleven, my mother drove me out here and while I was in the toilets at the 7-Eleven on the Jellicoe Road, she drove off and left me there.  It becomes one of those defining moments in your life, when your mother does that.  It's not as if I don't forgive her, because I do.  It's like these horror films where the hero gets attacked by the zombie and he has to convince the heroine to shoot him, because in ten seconds' time he won't be who he was anymore.  He;ll have the same face but no soul" (p. 20).

"The territory wars have been part of the Jellicoe School's life ever since I can remember.  I don't know who started them.  The Townies say is was the Cadets from the city who have been coming out here for the last twenty or so years.  They set up camp right alongside the Jellicoe School for six weeks each September as part of their outdoor education program.  We say the Townies started the wars because they think Jellicoe belongs to them, and the Cadets blame us because they say we don't know how to share land" (p. 35).

"I need to act quickly before there's a coup and as I glance around the table I realise, once again, that my only potential ally is a drop-kick moron with tomato sauce all over his face" (pp. 45-46).

"Is a person worth more because they have someone to grieve for them? (p. 60).

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