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Literature / On the Jellicoe Road

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I live on the Jellicoe Road. Where trees make canopies overhead and where you can sit at the top of them and see forever.
Taylor Markham

On the Jellicoe Road (or Jellicoe Road for US/UK readers) is an Australian novel for young adults by Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca. It's the story of Taylor Markham, the reluctant, newly-made leader of the students at the Jellicoe School (located in country New South Wales), as the annual underground war between the students, the nearby Townies, and the Cadets (Sydney boys who come for a six-week training exercise) begins. The closest thing she's got to a parent, Hannah, has mysteriously disappeared, just as Jonah Griggs — the new leader of the Cadets, and the boy she ran away with a few years ago — has come back. In between skirmishes and diplomatic fights for territory, she starts uncovering her past, and things take a rapid downturn...

Running parallel is the story Hannah is writing about five kids twenty years earlier. Three of them are survivors of a horrific car accident and become students, one is a Townie, and the other is a Cadet. They meet and become friends, but it isn't long before things get worse, and keep doing so.


This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Too many.
    • Oh boy. Jonah's father is probably the worst example, but by no means the only one.
    • Played with concerning Hannah. She's Taylor's aunt; Tate told her that she shouldn't be anything like a mother to Taylor because Taylor already had a mother. Hannah kept Taylor at arm's length for years, and Taylor became envious of the warmth Hannah showed to other girls like Jessa.
  • Adult Fear: Three junior girls get taken hostage. In a camp full of deprived teenage boys. Subverted in that they get protected from the boys, but it's still pretty terrifying.
    • A young boy is so scared for his mother and brother, the victims of violent abuse, that he ends up killing his own father.
    • Two young children are left with a child molester to care for them. Taylor was the lucky one. Her friend wasn't.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Most of the teachers at the Jellicoe School are temporary, so they don't have a vested interest in keeping a close eye on things. The students run rings around them.
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  • Arc Words: "We're going to know him for the rest of our lives" and variants thereof.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What did you use on your father, Griggs? Was it a gun or a knife?"
  • Ate His Gun: The Hermit killed himself this way.
  • Authority Figure Abandonment: Hannah mysteriously leaves at the start of the book, which kicks off the plot.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Taylor and Jonah.
  • Berserk Button: Taylor asking Griggs how he killed his father makes him nearly beat the crap out of her.
  • Big Brother Worship: Jonah, for his little brother.
    My brother is my God. I can't tell you how decent that kid is.
  • Big Brother Instinct: This and Parents in Distress is why Jonah kills his dad.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tate dies, but Hannah and Jude get engaged, Taylor gets her mother back for long enough to have an actual relationship, and the friendship between Jonah, Taylor, Chaz, Raffy, Ben and Jessa is cemented.
  • Boarding School: The Jellicoe School and the Cadets' camp.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: After Webb dies, everything falls apart: Fitz realises what he did and goes nuts, Tate runs away, and Hannah's left alone until Jude returns, in a perpetual state of misery.
  • Call-Back: Taylor's middle name is Lily. Lily is Tate's younger sister, who died in the crash.
  • Chekhov's Gun: That tunnel Jessa's always going on about, the one her father used to tell her about? It's just a myth, right?
  • The Chew Toy: Ben, who's constantly belittled and abused by the House captains, when he isn't getting beaten up by the Cadets.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Choi, when captured by the Students, is forced to play chess. To be fair, they only did it because they thought he'd be good at it. (He wasn't.)
    • Griggs stays at Santangelo's house for the holidays. So does Jessa. Not only does she never shut up, Santangelo is half Italian and thus has about a billion relatives (including overbearing old women) staying. Griggs and Santangelo are a minority, and end up bonding just to get out of there.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Jessa's dad Fitz/the Hermit leaves her because he thinks he's bad luck. He keeps to the periphery of her life until he kills himself.
  • Disappeared Dad: Fitz, to Jessa, because he thought he was bad luck, and Webb, to Taylor, because Webb died.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Hermit and in a slower version Tate both commit suicide; Jonah and maybe Hannah were stopped before they did.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: More like earn your Bittersweet Ending.
  • Enemy Mine: Taylor, Raffy, Griggs and Santangelo are constantly making deals with each other against each other when they're not fighting.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The cars in the crash at the beginning end up blowing up.
  • Evil Uncle: Jessa. She also has an Evil Aunt.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Tate, Taylor's mom chooses to die this way.
  • Fingore: Ben is sent to deliver a message. He gets beaten up and his fingers stomped on. Griggs later subverts it, saying that if he'd known how good a violinist Ben is, he'd have picked a different body part.
  • Foreshadowing: "Someday, I'll be Mrs Dubose and you'll read to me."
    • Towards the beginning, Taylor reflects on how many screw-ups are in her hall, saying they have three pyromaniacs and it's only a matter of time until they're all burned to death in their beds. In the end it's an electrical fire, and everybody survives, but it still counts as foreshadowing.
    • Fitz sticks around the other kids because he feels like they give him meaning. Decades later, his daughter sticks around the daughter of Tate and Webb because she idolises her.
  • Friendship Moment: Jude with the flower seeds.
  • Generation Xerox: Three Jellicoe kids (Hannah, Webb, and Tate) befriend a Townie (Fitz) and a Cadet (Jude) and become good friends. Decades later, three Jellicoe kids (Taylor ( the daughter of Tate and Webb), Ben, and Raffy) befriend, after much arguing, a Townie (Santangelo) and a Cadet (Griggs) and become good friends. In addition, in both generations, one of the Jellicoe kids gets together with the Cadet- Hannah with Jude, and Taylor with Griggs.
  • Gilligan Cut: Before breaking into the Brigadier's tent.
    "I'm going home," [Santangelo] says, ignoring my question. "Count me out."
    Raffy dismisses him with a shrug. "We'll do it on our own, Taylor. Joe Salvatore said he was hopeless under pressure, anyway."
    It doesn't take Santangelo long to get the lock open.
  • Harmful to Minors: Taylor saw Fitz kill himself and had to deal with her mother's drug addiction for years.
  • The Heart: Webb was to the original group. It's combined with We Were Your Team and Breaking the Fellowship in that once he dies, the group breaks up, unable to handle the trauma.
  • Hope Spot: Taylor ends up hoping that Fitz is still alive. Unfortunately, she witnessed him blowing his brains out years before. She didn't know who he was at the time, though.
  • I Die Free: Tate.
  • In Name Only: The tunnel. It's basically a few metres of tiny, cramped hole that's so dark it gives people nightmares.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Though Taylor didn't realize it at the time, she was this to Jonah. She was also the reason Tate's slow suicide took seventeen years instead of happening immediately. Subverted with Fitz, aka the Hermit, who Taylor had to witness die. Tate and the rest of the group also may have interrupted Hannah's attempt.
  • Ironic Echo: The territory wars started as a game, for fun, played by three groups of friends and ended as serious rivalry.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Taylor to Jonah and Tate; Webb to his entire team, especially Fitz; and Hannah for Taylor.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: It's played straight with Taylor, who finds out who her dad is the boy in the picture and her aunt is Hannah. This is played with for Jessa; Taylor (a third party) finds out her father is the Hermit late in the story, but its unclear if Jessa connects her dad to the person who killed himself.
  • Mama Bear: Tate for Hannah.
    • Trini, a side character, feels this way.
      If those cadets come near my Year Sevens again, I will maim them.
    • Tate, when she finds out her neighbor left her daughter and a friend with a child molester, goes berserk.
  • Meaningful Echo: A number of them throughout the story. One also combines with Book-Ends:
    The book starts with the line "My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted."
    The last chapter has Taylor thinking "My mother took seventeen years to die. I counted."
  • Measuring the Marigolds: When Webb and Jude look at a beautiful landscape, Webb sees a beautiful landscape and Jude sees a prospective fighting ground.
  • Military School: It's assumed that's where the Cadets go to school.
  • Missing Mom: Taylor's mother abandoned her years before the story started.
  • Mood Whiplash: Taylor references this when she says that she feels like an abusive father, one second a monster, and the next human.
    • Same with Griggs' father- he did occasional nice things in between beating the shit out of his family, and Griggs fears that one day he'll forget about the bad things and start believing that he killed an innocent man.
  • Motor Mouth: Jessa never, ever shuts up.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The 'band' put together by the three groups consists of two guitarists, a DJ and a violinist. It works. Somehow.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: Webb had a dream that he met Taylor, who told him her name.
  • Parents in Distress: To protect his mom (and brother) Jonah kills his dad.
  • Plot Parallel: Taylor and co spend a lot of the book trying to find out what happened to her parents. Hannah's story tells us exactly what happened, so by the time we realise exactly who they all are, the pieces start falling into place.
  • Reality Ensues: Tate dies, because The Power of Love and a reunited family aren't going to stop cancer. Nobody ends up magically getting along well, but with time and effort, they make a reasonable start.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Chaz's dad, who is a decent guy and a good cop.
  • The Reveal: The real identities of the five kids in Hannah's story: Narnie is Hannah, Jude is the Brigadier, Webb is Taylor's dead father, Tate is Taylor's absent mother, and Fitz is the Hermit and Jessa's father.
  • Rule of Drama: The two cars containing Webb's and Narnie's parents, and Tate's parents and sister survive more than two hours after the collision and wait patiently for Fitz to pull all the survivors and the bodies out of both cars ... and then explode spectacularly a mere minute after the last person gets clear.
  • Sanity Slippage: Taylor goes slowly insane over the first half of the book. She gets better, though.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Played half-straight. Jonah killed his father, but his mother's still alive. The bastard deserved it, though.
  • She's Not My Girlfriend: Taylor denies that she's Jonah's girlfriend at one point. She's not, but Raffy and Ben still make sure the girls who were trying to flirt with him know he's unavailable.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Ben gets his fingers stomped on for being the messenger.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Apparently nobody noticed that Jonah's father was abusing his family to the point that his son ended up killing him because there was no way out.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Tate asks Hannah to be her Mrs Dubose. Hannah's agreement kicks off the main plot.
  • Tagalong Kid: Jessa for Taylor. Taylor hates it.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Webb dreamed of Taylor, which is where he got her name, and Taylor dreams of Webb, but she only knows him as 'the boy in the tree'.
  • Team Mom: Raffy.
  • There Are No Therapists: Taylor didn't seem to get any after her childhood, or witnessing the Hermit kill himself in front of her. Averted in that it's mentioned several times Jonah went to therapy.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Jonah does look at his hands and talk about regret.
  • True Companions: There are two circles of close friends, tied by blood. The first is Narnie, Tate, Fitz, Webb and Jude, also known as Hannah [Taylor's aunt], Taylor's mom, the Hermit, Taylor's dad and the Brigadier. The second one is Taylor, Jonah, Raffy, Ben and Chaz.
    Chaz: What are you so sad about? We're going to know him for the rest of our lives.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The main plot runs alongside the story of the original friends.
  • Urban Warfare: Inverted.
    The Cadets are wanna-be soldiers. City people. They may know how to street fight but they don't know how to wade through manure.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Raffy and Chaz.
  • Wham Line: "And then he told me to close my eyes. And I think I've been afraid to do just that, ever since." Taylor, after the Hermit killed himself in front of her.
    • "And I thought I must have killed a fucker of a bird." He shot Webb.
    • "He was a prick, but even pricks don't deserve to get smashed over the head with a baseball bat." Griggs about his father, taking away any question of whether or not he actually did kill his father.
    • "Taylor. Jude isn't just a Cadet. He's the Brigadier."
    • "I wasn't there to get on the three forty-seven to Yass. I was there to throw myself in front of it." Jonah, to Taylor.
  • With Friends Like These...: Chaz and Jonah.
  • The World Tree: The Prayer Tree, an ancient, huge tree that gives anyone at the top a view of the countryside for miles.
  • Your Mom: Played straight and then lampshaded
    Townie: No. That's the beauty of it. They don't actually have to insult. The words Your mother are enough.


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