After meeting this incredible woman at the (semi) recent Adelaide Writers Week I felt compelled to re-read my favourite book of hers, On The Jellicoe Road. A trusty old favourite I found when I returned to my copy the edges of the pages have yellowed showing just how long I have had this book, I can only imagine how many times I have read these pages over time and now want to share my love for this novel with you all. On The Jellicoe Road tells the story of Taylor. Taylor’s mother abandoned her at the 7-Eleven on the Jellicoe Road and here she is head of the boarders at the Jellicoe School in the annual territory wars with the townies and the cadets. Just when this responsibility falls to her shoulders, Hannah, who found her on the Jellicoe Road disappears leaving Taylor her manuscript. A manuscript about a group of five kids in the eighties, living in Jellicoe. The manuscript is disordered, unfinished, and yet the stories stir a nostalgia in Taylor that she has no right to own. These stories, the disappearance of Hannah and the reappearance of the cadet lead Taylor down a path. A path that she hopes leads to some answers.
It does not matter how many times I read this novel, this story, the characters, the nostalgia stirs something in me and I always end the book ugly crying at the beauty and tragedy of it. Marchetta is a true story teller and in this novel she creates such a compelling tale of friends, family, love, abandonment set in the rugged and beautiful Australian bush. The characters are all memorable and unique. You fall in love with the abrupt, prickly Taylor who acts as though she doesn’t need anyone, and who can blame her. The character development, the unfurling of this character as she realises that life is better when you let people in, when you demand the attention and love you deserve will melt your heart. Along with Taylor you will also fall in love with the eighties mob, larrikin Fitz, hopeful, idealistic Webb, intense Tate, the unfathomable Narnie and Jude, who just wants to belong to them all. Full of references to Australian eighties pop culture this book made me fall in love with the famous Cold Chisel song Flame Trees. Although everytime I hear the haunting Sarah Blasko version I can’t help but think of this book. Seriously if you have read or plan to read this book, when you finish sit down and listen to this version of the song and soak up the melancholy.
This book has a bit of everything that a good YA book should have: there are teenage dramas, a bit of love and romance, a lot of pent up feelings, friendships that have no limits that only the young can have, tragedy, laughs and the most colourful characters you will ever find. This is more than just another YA novel, it is a snapshot into growing up in Australia. I’m not sure if I have done this book justice with this review, it is suprisingly difficult to write about a book you are familiar with like the back of your hand. A book that you cant fathom anyone not loving as much as you. All I can say is please read this book. A five star read for me without a doubt that I would recommend time and time again.