My Spain recap is still in limbo because the photos from the trip are being held hostage by my sister, aka keeper of the sole camera we brought on the trip. She hasn’t had a chance to upload them yet and when she does, I’ll be able to do the recap.
I’ve been promising blog reviews for a while. There are several I want to do and so I’m going to finally stop talking and actually post them. I’m going to try to be realistic about it and do one a week. Here’s the first one since I finished reading it last night and I’m itching to discuss!
Oh my gosh. This book was amazing. I’d heard from others that it’s really confusing for the first third of the book, but stick with it because everything comes together and it’s worth reading.
My sister had actually brought this book back for me from a vacation in Australia nearly two years ago because it was a best seller there and wasn’t yet available in the US. I’d tried to read it two other times but I couldn’t get past page 20 or so. Part of that had to do with the foreign punctuation, but mostly the story IS really confusing.
Since it won the Printz award last January, I’d been meaning to give it another try but I’ve been intimidated about it. Finally, I decided to push through past the first third and see if I could get into it.
I am so, so glad I stuck with it. I have to say the first 125 pages ARE hard to get through. I really had no idea what was happening and I wasn’t invested in the story, mostly because I couldn’t figure out what the story actually was. But around page 150 the focus of the story started to change, I began to piece things together and everything started making sense. But most importantly, it was around that time when I found myself really caring about the characters.
And that was it. From that point on I had to read it in one sitting because I couldn’t drag myself away. It was an emotional ride, I felt very drained when I finished (but in a good way) and I cried even though the book isn’t sad in the way The Book Thief is sad, more that it’s a tough emotional journey that tugged at my heart strings.
It gets intense even though it starts out pretty surface level where you think the book is going to be a rivalry between students at neighboring schools (for lack of a better phrase) but it ends up being so much more. For the first third of the book I thought the love story was completely non-existent–where I couldn’t even figure out who the love interest was at first except for a clue in the jacket copy. But it ended up being one of the most intense love stories I’ve ever read, where the love crackled on the page even when the characters weren’t admitting to it. I’m wholly impressed.
One of my favorite things about this author is that she pulls the bait and switch in such a subtle way that you don’t even notice she’s doing it. You start out hating a character and then you realize you’re in love with him and you think–wait, when did that happen? Masterful.
Oh and I have a new literary boy crush. I love this one because he appears to be tough and kind of a jerk wad and then he slowly peels away the outer shell and he’s completely sensitive and romantic.
This was an interesting read for me, personally, because it consisted of two separate timelines. I’ve written two books of my own (The Art Of Selling My Sister and Rhythm And Clues) that had dual timelines and I remember it being a very difficult process because my critiquers would often vastly prefer one storyline to the other and it took several rewrites to get them to be invested in BOTH storylines. This was interesting because for about 2/3 of Jellicoe Road, I really didn’t care for one of the storylines. Every time it showed up, I would grown and I’d have to force myself to push through just to get back to the storyline I liked. Part of this was that the 2nd storyline (the one in italics) was rather confusing and out of order and I kept forgetting who the characters were and their relationships so it was too much work. But then about 2/3 of the way through I understood the purpose of this timeline and that’s when I got invested in it. I think I missed a lot in the beginning because of not understanding so eventually I want to re-read and really pay attention to the parts I missed.
In a way the book reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin because of the book within a book structure and how at first it appears to be just a story one of the characters wrote but then turns out to hold the key to everything. Of course, I read TBA about a decade ago so I might be misremembering it.
I did figure out most of the mystery way before the protagonist, and sometimes that bothers me in a book, but this time it didn’t because it wasn’t just about figuring out the mystery. There was so much more to this book and this story and I found myself caring less about the mystery reveals and more about how they affected the protagonist. That’s awesome writing.
I cared deeply for the characters by the end. They’re all very well-drawn, even the minor ones. Taylor is an awesome protagonist, and like I mentioned, her love interest is Sa-woon worthy (as Kristy from THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER) would say.
This book absolutely deserved the Printz award. It’s a brilliant book that appears to be a surface level story at the start but is way deeper and takes the reader on a unique journey. I highly recommend reading it with the warning that you WILL get confused and want to put the book down for the first 150 pages or so but don’t. You’ll be glad you stuck with it.