We are not going to review this novel today, however. As you would expect from true Marchetta fanatics, we have already read and reviewed it months ago, when the book first came out in October in Australia. You can read our musings in their variety here - Catie's (accompanied by some great music), Flannery's (with illustrations), and Tatiana's (with old-fashioned gushing).
Whatever our reactions to Froi of the Exiles were (and not all of them were uniformly positive), all three of us are still strong admirers of Melina Marchetta's talent.
What we want to dedicate today's Three Heads Are Better Than One (or Two) post to is talking about how we got to know Melina's works, how they affected our relationships with YA literature and what is that special something that brings us back to her books over and over again.
p. 200 of 420. This is so confusing. I don't understand what the hype is all about
p. 300 of 420. NOW I know what the hype is all about
It was indeed confusing in the beginning, but I loved it. It was so heartfelt and tender and heartbreaking. I cried a lot too. But there was a specific scene that made me forever a Marchetta fan and that is almost imprinted in my mind. It is a sex scene between Taylor and Jonah.
"I sit up in the dark and after a moment I take off my singlet and I hear him taking off his T-shirt and we sit there, holding each other, kissing until our mouths are aching, and then we're pulling off the rest of our clothes and I'm under him and I feel as if I'm imprinted onto his body. Everything hurts, every single thing including the weight of him and I'm crying because it hurts and he's telling me he's sorry over and over again, and I figure that somewhere down the track we'll work out the right way doing this but I don't want to let go, because tonight I'm not looking for anything being part of him. Because being part of him isn't just anything. It's kind of everything."
It gave me goose bumps. It struck me as so honest and so raw and unembellished. Just like all Marchetta's book are.
However, for as much as I've always loved young adult fantasies, I've avoided young adult contemporaries. For some reason, I had this idea in my head that young adult contemporaries could never be as deep or as dark or as complex as their adult counterparts. But everyone and her sister on Young Adult for Adults was raving about this other book called Jellicoe Road. So, when I went to my library with the express purpose of picking up Finnikin of the Rock and saw Jellicoe Road – a small, shiny volume covered in a huge red poppy – sitting innocently right next to it I thought, “hey why not?” And I had absolutely no idea what it was about.
I finished Finnikin of the Rock that day and thought…"that’s one of the best fantasies I’ve read in a long time.” It was great, but it didn't blow my mind. I gave it four stars. (spoiler alert: Froi of the Exiles DID in fact blow my mind.) Jellicoe Road continued to sit on my night stand, untouched, until I had finally renewed it for the last time, hogging it from the library like a jerk. I finally gave in one night right after I put the girls to bed, and unlike just about everyone else who seemed to find the beginning confusing and dense, I was hooked from page one.
“My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die. I counted.”
I still get chills when I read that opening page! I stayed up well into that night, reading with stunned amazement, as just about every preconceived notion that I had about young adult contemporary novels was shattered. I read with a sense of doomed sadness as the identities of the characters in the flashbacks started to become clear. When Jonah revealed his reasons for taking the train that day, I cried. And when that ending dared to go further into Taylor’s abandonment and grief than I ever expected a young adult book to go, I knew that this book was going to get five stars.
“I stand up and walk towards her because my days of waiting for more are over. If I want more, I need to go and get it, demand it, take hold of it with all my might, and do the best I can with it.”
It’s the first young adult contemporary novel that I ever gave five stars to, but not the last. Thanks to Jellicoe Road, I expanded my horizons and found other contemporary young adult authors that I can’t believe I spent years without: Sara Zarr, Courtney Summers, Kirsty Eagar, Cath Crowley, and Steve Brezenoff. Melina Marchetta opened the doors into a world of literary greatness that I'd been missing, and I'll always be thankful for that.
Have YOU discovered Melina Marchetta yet?
Happy US Release Day, Melina Marchetta!
From three of your biggest fans.