I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.
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This was my third contemporary Marchetta read, and probably the one I had heard the most about. My highschool friend was always telling me about how this is her favourite Marchetta novel and so, it was the one I kept until last. (Though I did find out last year that there is a companion novel to Saving Francesca.) I’m just going to come right out and say that I was beyond confused for pretty much the first 200 pages. I couldn’t get my head around the whole ‘territory wars’ thing, and it took me a while to even really understand what this school was, that was apparently full of orphans off in the middle of the bush. I trusted in the writing though (which, as always, was lovely) and eventually the story settled down enough that I got to know the characters, and start to enjoy the read.
I do love an author who can create real characters, and Marchetta never disappoints on that front. That said, I did feel that a lot of the character dynamics were recycled from Saving Francesca. I can’t complain too much though, because these dynamics are one of the things I enjoyed most. I love the teenage boy/girl group dynamics Marchetta creates – everything from life long buddies, to siblings, to sexual tension complete with swoon worthy soliloquies, in a way that still feels doable. Also, if we’re recycling love interests, the stoic rugby player with a heart of gold is fine by me.
I used to be in the Australian Cadet Corps myself, so that whole aspect was quite cool for me. The rest of the story was crazy dark. Like, really dark. And while I guess, technically, it can be classified as Young Adult Fiction, I’d be hesitant to call it that myself. At least not as a primary classification. Through the darkness, the story was well plotted and I liked how everything slotted together with the two timelines and multiple story arcs. It might not have been my favourite contemporary Marchetta, in fact, it had me thoroughly confused for about half the book, but I’ll be damned if I can stop thinking about those characters.