I was hooked from the very first line ('My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die'), so I know it will be very hard for me to stay objective about Jellicoe Road. The premise didn't sound like something I would be normally attracted to: Taylor is a troubled teen abandoned by her mother and raised at a boarding school, which is about to commence its annual territorial wars with the locals (Townies) and a visiting military camp (Cadets). For one reason or another, it's been on my Amazon Wish List for a while now and it was only yesterday when I was able to get a copy from my local bookstore. At one-thirty in the morning, I started to read it and didn't stop--except for a short bathroom break and to get a drink of water. It was that much of an emotionally addictive read for me.
It's about Taylor coping with being chosen to lead her school in the territory wars. It's about her dealing with the pain of a father she doesn't know and a mother who has abandoned her. It's about her searching for the one adult she depends on--Hannah, who found her at eleven and brought her to Jellicoe School but is now nowhere to be found. It's about trusting yourself and trusting others and learning to love. But this story is bigger than Taylor. Interspersed between her present-day struggles are snatches of an uncompleted manuscript that Hannah is writing, about five tragic teenagers who once called Jellicoe Road their home.
The more I read, the more I got hooked. Who were these teens? What did they have to do with Taylor? Ms Marchetta's plot is so complexly layered and so well-mapped out that even though you're not sure where it's headed, you feel compelled to read on. I admit though that once you've started making the connections, it's easy to see what happened to these characters' splintered past. Despite this, I didn't feel disappointed; the novel certainly didn't take the easy way out. Towards the latter chapters the book loses some of its steam (a particularly didactic scene between Taylor and Hannah didn't rise to the level of intensity the rest of the book had) but it's still an amazingly epic contemporary story that I would recommend. I did not regret falling asleep at four in the morning or that my pillow was wet with tears. I was happy to have been to Jellicoe Road and back, to have met these characters, and to feel that in some small measure my life had been changed.