Melina Marchetta's new novel, Jellicoe Road, is the winner of the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. If that doesn't convince you that it's a great book, I'll give it a whirl myself.
Taylor Markham's mother abandoned her at a gas station when she was just 11. She is sent to the Jellicoe School, a state-run private school that draws some local students, some young criminals (arsonists included), and other kids like Taylor who are wards of the state--in this case, Australia.
Now 17, Taylor is abandoned again by Hannah, the only person she trusts. Hannah took Taylor in after her mother left and has been a mentor and friend ever since. Not quite a mother, but still the closest thing Taylor has to family.
Or so she thinks.
As the novel progresses, Taylor finds that her group of school friends, Raffaela and Jessa are more like family than she wants them to be, and her so-called enemies in the territory war between the Townies, Cadets, and her schoolmates are really the closest friends she's ever had.
Taylor also learns more about Hannah from the manuscript of her novel, left behind when she left. She discovers the depth of Hannah's childhood friendships and how they come to play in both their lives now.
Through her friendships and Hannah's manuscript, Taylor deciphers the deepest secrets of her life: who she is, where she came from, why the Hermit begged her for forgiveness, and why Griggs has stayed with her.
The hazy story progression reflects Taylor's disconnect from the world around her after Hannah leaves. As the world comes back into focus, she is able to clearly remember what has happened to her. She also can finally put the fractured events in Hannah's novel together into a cohesive story.
Marchetta's flawless prose will leave you wanting more. In fact, I'm on the hunt for her other novels right now...