There’s a reason why I always go back to Young Adult fiction. When books like Twilight and 50 Shades of
Yuck Gray invade the shelves and infiltrate the young minds of our generation, you start to think maybe you’ve outgrown YA. That it is slowly losing its magic on you. That YA is now composed of poorly written smut and that’s just depressing. Then you will come across books like Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road. These are the kind books that will remind you just how much you love YA.
I love YA because the very act of reading YA isn’t difficult and frustrating the way I’ve found some of the more grown up books (looking at you, George R.R. Martin) I’ve read recently to be. In YA fiction I find that only the characters and the situations they find themselves in can be difficult and frustrating, but never the act of reading the book itself. If anything, reading YA, for me, feels incredibly fluid and carefree, like letting yourself be taken away by the current if you allow it to.
And that is exactly how I felt when I read On the Jellicoe Road. I let the current take me away and it was enough to keep me entertained for 5 hours. It’s a new record for me, 5 uninterrupted hours of slumped-on-the-couch reading. I can’t even explain how but I did. The only thing that comes close to a rationale behind this is that the book is so well-written.
I’ve never come across a book as brilliant and gorgeous and intense as On the Jellicoe Road. It’s my first Melina Marchetta book and it’s not surprising why it received a Printz award in 2009. Remember that they just don’t give awards like that to any book.
The first few chapters might be a tad confusing and I was slightly put off by how the book seems to be populated by overly sensitive, high-strung teenagers. But I believe in the power of a 5-star rating in GoodReads and when I read a review that said On the Jellicoe Road is a kind of book that should be experienced first hand, I plowed through it and well, the rest is, as per usual, history.
What really makes this book wonderful is the feel. It is brimming with emotion and it is meant to be that way. Our first impressions are shaped by the limited knowledge that Taylor has available to her, and as the story goes on we learn that the answers we want are the truth that Taylor is so desperate to learn.
This is a story told in two parts, but it is one story. A story about self and how you define and are defined by others, how to love despite the hurt and imperfections, and to me, how the people you love never truly leave you to deal with life alone.
Melina Marchetta wove together this journey in a way that you do not realize how much it has touched you until after you have read the last sentence. I cried while reading the last five or six chapters – even though I could not, and still can’t, articulate exactly what it was that hit me so deep.
“It’s funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that’s why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It’s not the pain they’re getting over, it’s the love.”
“What do you want from me?” he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.”
“It stirs a nostalgia in me that I have no reason to own, but it makes me ache all the same.”
“Is a person worth more because they have someone to grieve for them?”
“But grief makes a monster out of us sometimes… and sometimes you say and do things to the people you love that you can’t forgive yourself for.”
“Jonah Griggs. Not just a name but a state of mind I never want to revisit, although I do keep him at the back of my mind for those times I get me hopes raised about something. So then I can slap myself into reality and remind myself of what happens when you let someone into your sacred space. Jonah Griggs is my second reminder to never ever trust another human being. My mother was first.”
“I need desperately to feel it all, so when something wonderful happens, the contrast will be so massive that I will bottle the impact and keep it for the rest of my life.”
“I’m frightened that one morning there will not be enough to keep me going.”
It’s a book I will save from anything – fire, floods, the end of the world. It’s the book that will be read to me on my deathbed. It’s the book I will be holding when I die and it’s time for me to go six feet under.
I will reread this book when I feel like hurting myself again. When I’m lonely. When I feel like there’s no way out, because I learned that there always is and I don’t have to go through it by myself.
Recommended to: everyone
Yes, even if you’re not keen to read YA, just fucking read it okay? Once you’re done, we talk about our feelings.