Jellicoe Road Chapter One ---- twenty-two years later ---- I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree and at the exact moment I'm about to hear the answer that I've been waiting for, the flashlights yank me out of what could have been one of those perfect moments of clarity people talk about for the rest of their lives. If I was prone to dramatics, I could imagine my sighs would have been heard from the boundaries of the school to the town down below. The question begs to be asked, "Why the flashlights?" Turning on the light next to my bed would have been much less conspicuous and dramatic. But if there is something I have learned in the past five years, it's that melodrama plays a special part in the lives of those at the Jellicoe School. So while the mouths of the year twelves move and their hands threaten, I think back to my dream of the boy, because in it I find solace. I like that word. I'm going to make it my word of the year. There is just something about that boy that makes me feel like I belong. Belong. Long to be. Weird word, but semantics aside, it is up there with solace. Somewhere in that hazy world of neither here nor there, I'll be hanging off that tree, legs hooked over the branch, hands splayed, grabbing at air that is intoxicating and perfumed with the sweet smell of oak. Next to me, always, is that boy. I don't know his name, and I don't know why he comes calling, but he is there every time, playing the same music on one of those Discmans for tapes from the eighties, a song about flame trees and long-time feelings of friends left behind. The boy lets me join in and I sing the same line each time. His eyes are always watery at that point and it stirs a nostalgia in me that I have no reason to own, but it makes me ache all the same. We never quite get to the end of the song and each time I wake, I remind myself to ask him about those last few bars. But somehow I always forget. I tell him stories. Lots of them. About the Jellicoe School students and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between all three of us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river at the edge of the Jellicoe School, and of the manuscript of hers I've read, with its car wreck. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world and too smart to be merely organizing weekend passes for the kids in my dorm. Hannah, who thinks she has me all worked out. I tell him of the time when I was fourteen, just after the Hermit whispered something in my ear and then shot himself, when I went in search of my mother, but got only halfway there. I tell him that I blame the Cadet for that. The boy in the tree sobs uncontrollably when I tell him about the Hermit and my mother, yet his eyes light up each time I mention Hannah. And every single time he asks, "Taylor, what about the Brigadier who came searching for you that day? Whatever became of him?" I try to explain that the Brigadier is of no importance to my story, that the Brigadier was just some top brass, high up in the army, who had been invited to train the cadets that year, but the boy always shakes his head as if he knows better. And there are times, like this time, when he leans forward to remind me of what the Hermit had whispered. He leans so far forward that I catch his scent of tea-tree and sandalwood and I strain my ears to listen so I will never forget. I strain my ears, needing to remember because somehow, for reasons I don't know, what he says will answer everything. He leans forward, and in my ear he whispers . . . "It's time!" I hesitate for a moment or two, just in case the dream is still floating around and I can slip back into it for that crucial moment. But the flashlights hurt my eyes and when I'm able to push them away I can see the ignorant impatience in the faces of the year twelves. "If you want us to scare you, Taylor Markham, we'll scare you." I climb out of bed and pull on my jumper and boots and grab my inhaler. "You're wearing flannelette," I remind them flatly. "How scared should I be?" They walk me down the corridor, past the senior rooms. I see the other year-eleven girls, my classmates, standing at their door, watching me. Some, like Raffaela, try to catch my eye, but I don't allow it to hold. Raffaela makes me feel sentimental and there is no place in my life for sentimentality. But for just one moment I think of those first nights in the dorm five years ago, when Raffaela and I lay side by side and she listened to a tale that I have no memory of today about my life in the city. I'll always remember the look of horror on her face. "Taylor Markham," she had said, "I'm going to say a prayer for you." And although I wanted to mock her and explain I didn't believe in anything or anyone, I realized that no one had ever prayed for me before. So I let her. I follow the seniors down two flights of stairs to a window that is supposedly the least conspicuous one in the House. I have actually mastered the climb down from my own window but have never dared to tell anyone. It gives me more freedom and means that I don't have to explain my every move to the year-seven spies in the dorm. I started off as one of those. They hand-pick you young out here. A thorn presses into my foot through the soft fabric of my boot and I let it for a moment, pausing until they push me forward. I walk ahead, allowing them to play out their roles. Jellicoe Road . Copyright Â© by Melina Marchetta . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
School Library Journal Review
|Gr 8 Up-For years, three factions-Townies, Cadets (city kids doing a six-week outdoor education program), and Jellicoe School students-have engaged in teen war games in the Australian countryside, defending territorial borders, negotiating for assets, and even taking hostages. Taylor Markham, a 17-year-old who was abandoned years ago by her mother, takes on leadership of the boarding school's six Houses. Plagued with doubts about being boss, she's not sure she can handle her Cadet counterpart, Jonah Griggs, whom she met several years before while running away to find her mother. When Hannah, a sort of house mother who has taken Taylor under her wing, disappears, Taylor puzzles over the book manuscript the woman left behind. Hannah's tale involves a tragic car accident on the Jellicoe Road more than 20 years earlier. Only three children survived, and Taylor discovers that this trio, plus a Cadet and a Townie, developed an epic friendship that was the foundation of the many mysteries in her life and identity, as well as of the war games. While the novel might put off casual readers, patient, thoughtful teens will remain to extract clues from the interwoven scraps of Hannah's narrative, just as Taylor does, all the while seeing the collapse of the barriers erected among the three groups over the years. Elegiac passages and a complex structure create a somewhat dense, melancholic narrative with elements of romance, mystery, and realistic fiction.-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.|