The Truth About Forever (Sarah Dessen) 3.5*; Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta) 3*

What is up with the Hand of Fate bringing young people together?  Nothing irritates me as much as being 350 pages in when I walk in on the author snorting faith like a line of coke.

In The Truth About Forever, the “forever” of the title is delightfully and surprisingly grounded, but things get distinctly suspicious with this side business of “oh my parent died also, and look your dead parent left you a secret present that is an unambiguous blessing of our growing feelings for one another!  You can discover this magical present shortly after you discover your feelings for me!!!”

Jellicoe Road is just one gigantic Hand of Fate of which I do not approve.  All of you have to stop having dreams sent by your dead parents, okay?  Especially the one that saves you from a serial killer.  Grrrr.

Otherwise, The Truth About Forever is well written, has fun characters, exhibits real feelings.  Dessen has real chops.

Jellicoe Road, however. Why is this book so unnecessarily confusing, and how has it won so much praise despite being so unnecessarily confusing?  It shouldn’t take so damn long to figure out who the characters are.  Not in the grand meaning of identity — just like names and stuff.  It takes even longer to figure out if the territory wars are Battle School or just a bit of summer fun.  The kids get all finger-stompin’ emo, which suggests high stakes, but the only visible gains and losses are…they have to walk an extra 20 minutes to get where they’re going?

Also, I went to public boarding school for two years, and I’m completely distracted by the administrative whackness of the Jellicoe School, which is supposedly a near-public boarding school.  You can’t have students be house mothers to the other students, people!  Somebody has to be over 18, on school payroll, and on premises at all times.  Nobody seems to care as students wander on and off campus, get physically hurt, or suddenly decide to stay overnight with host families in town.  This adds a layer of temporal confusion for me because no boarding school has been run like this since the Holden Caulfield days at least.  However, the book carries aggressive modern-relevance tags (ex.: Beyonce), so I can only conclude that Australian teenagers currently run their own boarding schools and cook all their own meals in between practicing their Single Ladies dance routines.

I approve of the dactyl in Jellicoe Road‘s title, though.  I may have just read an entire book due to my dactyl fetish.

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