Love and War: ‘Jellicoe Road’ by Melina Marchetta

Last year when I wrote the first edition of the Most Crushable Dudes in YA list (it will be remembered in history books for sure), a reader named Emily suggested that I read Jellicoe Road and find out about Jonah Griggs. Actually, her exact words were, “He’s the world’s most crush worthy fictional character in the history of fictional characters.” HelloGiggles readers know how to get to me. With praise like that, of course I had to read Jellicoe Road, even if it took me a year to get to it.

And while Jonah Griggs is definitely someone to swoon over, the book is amazing for lots of other reasons. It’s a little hard for me to explain the plot of Jellicoe Road because, well, it’s sort of confusing. I was trying to figure out what was happening for a pretty long time. But here’s the thing…it totally doesn’t matter because it’s so, so good. And being confused at the beginning is kind of the point (I hope…otherwise I just have problems with reading comprehension), because the main character, Taylor, is confused, too. Taylor attends the Jellicoe School, which is engaged in a kind-of-fun-but-kind-of-serious (I mean, people get punched a lot) war between the Townies and the Cadets. Taylor’s been at Jellicoe School ever since she was abandoned by her mother years ago, but she’s been looked after by a woman named Hannah. But when Hannah disappears without a word, Taylor knows something serious is up. It doesn’t help that she also has to deal with Jonah Griggs, a Cadet with whom she has some history.

You might be thinking, “Uh, this doesn’t sound romantic at all.” While Jonah Griggs is super-great (we’ll get to him later!), Jellicoe Road is such a heartwrenching book for reasons that have nothing to do with romance. Taylor’s quest to figure out where Hannah went and find out more about her family is heartbreaking, and it isn’t sugarcoated at all. I hate to use the word “gritty” to describe anything other than, like, sand or natural peanut butter, but I have to use it to describe Jellicoe Road. Real and upsetting topics like abuse, addiction, and mental illness aren’t shied away from.

And then there’s Jonah Griggs. Whew. When he first showed up on the page, I wasn’t impressed, but he quickly proved himself. He is intense. He and Taylor have a fighting-and-flirting Taming of the Shrew type of relationship for awhile, but of course those are the relationships that always get the most explosive. I loved how serious and passionate he was. When I make a part 3 of the Most Crushable Dudes in YA list, you’d better believe he’ll be on it.

Dreamy guys aside, I can’t implore you enough to pick up a copy of Jellicoe Road. Yes, it’s a little confusing at first, but don’t give up! It has such a great, emotional payoff and, let’s face it, you’re probably going to cry.


Jellicoe Road might sound like a depressing book, and it definitely is upsetting, but it’s also very funny in parts. The dialogue is quick and witty, which provides a nice contrast to the usually heavy subject matter.

-Part of the story is told through a book that Hannah is writing. Without giving too much away, it’s incredibly interesting to see how the book weaves itself into the larger story.

Jellicoe Road is one of the few books I’ve read that’s set in Australia. Another one that I’ve reviewed is Love and Other Perishable Items, which I also loved. Now I want to read all of Melina Marchetta’s other books.

What about you guys? Have you read Jellicoe Road, and did you love Jonah Griggs as much as I did? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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