A number of months ago, I got what I would call a regularly scheduled ultimatum from my literary conscience Rhapsody Jill, telling me I had to read this book. It wasn't a suggestion. She said I HAD to. This usually means I have something special waiting for me between these pages. So I dutifully bought it on my Kindle and earmarked it for summer reading.
She told me that I needed to pay attention, and that I may be inclined to re-read it as soon as I finished it...sort of a "Sixth Sense" kind of thing. I considered myself warned (often I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to complex plots) and proceeded cautiously.
Synopsis: Taylor Markham is a seventeen year-old orphan of sorts who attends an Australian boarding school out in the bush. She is the newly appointed leader of the school, and everyone is relying on her to navigate the precipitous rules of territory and war between the kids at school, the townies, and the cadets that train in the area each fall. She doesn't have much time to dwell on the fact that she was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven, and longs to find her again...but it is always in the back of her mind. She relies on Hannah, a local woman who has mentored her since she arrived, but she recently disappeared without a word. Then in struts Jonah Griggs, a cadet with whom she has a history.
Meanwhile, in alternate chapters, we are told a story of a car accident with three survivors. A tale of five children who forge an unbreakable friendship that can't be broken, even by separation or tragedy.
Slowly, these two stories mesh together, like a beautiful, mysterious dance. A dance that celebrates motherless daughters, fathers and sons, best friends, young love, keeping some traditions and breaking others, and finding the answers that explain who we are.
My thoughts: This book was an absolutely gorgeous read. The world that I was plunged into was one I didn't ever want to leave. And yes, if I didn't have three thousand books calling for my attention, I'd read it again right now. Never mind that it is officially labeled as Young Adult, this book is for HUMANS WITH A BEATING HEART.
It wasn't initially easy to understand, and it is important you know that up front, lest you get frustrated and stop reading. Jill had told me to pay attention, so I did, and immediately treated the two stories like a puzzle or a mystery I needed to solve. It was complex, well-developed, expertly-paced and extremely satisfying.
I fell in love with the characters. Taylor wasn't your typical angsty teenage girl. She is strong, fierce and passionate, but reserved in order to protect herself from heartbreak. Jonah Griggs, the ying to her yang, blasted into town all intimidating and badass, but had his own defense mechanisms that were put in place for the purpose of demon-fighting. Jonah was ultimately adorable once you see his soft underbelly.
The supporting cast of characters, both the adults and kids, were equally as unique and precious. As unique and precious as your own motley crew when you were in high school. A big group hug was what I wanted most at the end of the book.
So yet again I find an author who I feel compelled to make into a project, reading the back list (the other was Gillian Flynn). Marchetta's writing is edgy and smart, her structure unique. I need more of this in my life.
5 out of 5 stars