At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor’s the reluctant leader of her school’s underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are les by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can’t avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues that Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.
I’ll start by saying that there are some novels where the writing style and the way the plot is executed are literary to the point that they feel pretentious and overdone. Jellicoe Road neatly dodges that trap and instead uses the literary style in a way that perfectly fits the complex, time-spanning series of events, albeit one that often makes things a bit confusing.
At first, I really didn’t like the snippets of the manuscript Hannah left behind floating between chapters, but once their significance clicked I couldn’t wait for the next one to arrive. This is definitely a book where things unfold very, very gradually, building an incredible amount of suspense that kept me rushing onward towards the end.
Although the turf war that they’re involved in seems childish, the main characters are well developed. I really enjoyed Taylor as a protagonist—for all for insecurities and issues, she was a very strong female MC. I also liked the supporting cast; Ben was the source of more than a few laughs and the banter between Raffy and Santangelo was always fun. The little quirks of the school made it real for me, because having experienced two boarding schools firsthand, I know that it’s the traditions that make them special, not fictitious secret societies!
The relationship between Taylor and Jonah was, of course, a driving part of the book, and almost a perfect representation of what I love in a YA romance; tense, sweet, equal, self-sacrificing and above all very real.
In short: even though I’m usually not a huge fan of novels written in a more literary style, Jellicoe Road hit me hard and has earned a spot on my list of contemporary favorites.