Study Guide

Jessa McKenzie in Jellicoe Road

By Melina Marchetta

Jessa McKenzie

Jessa McKenzie is that kid that puts fear in the hearts of camp counselors and youth leader figures everywhere. She's kind of wild, tells bizarre stories to freak people out, and worst of all, won't leave Taylor alone. "Somewhere in my worst nightmare she's become surgically attached to me and nothing, not anger, not insults, not the direst cruelty can dislodge her" (2.45), Taylor tells us. Jessa even requested to get into her House, which doesn't exactly lighten Taylor's load or give her a break.

Not only that, but Jessa's totally obsessed with the serial killer who's been making rounds in their area for years. She enraptures the other girls with tales of his crimes, keeps a morbid scrapbook of news articles about the victims, and even envisions a very involved saga where the Brigadier is actually the serial killer. Not exactly the kind of hysteria you want breaking out in the dorms when you're in charge of a bunch of seventh graders who are already prone to theatrics.

Okay, so we've established that Jessa's kind of annoying. As Taylor learns, though, there's more to this budding true crime aficionado than meets the eye—as well as connections that Taylor couldn't possibly imagine. As we learn, Jessa is the only daughter of Fitz—a.k.a. the Hermit—and his wife who died of cancer when Jessa was only two. Of course, Fitz's suicide only makes the fact that Jessa "hero-worshipped her father" (17.78) even more painful.

While Jessa doesn't know the whole story behind her dad's past or the connection between her and Taylor, she seems to intuit these relationships without having anyone present her with the facts. And Taylor seems to know it, too—"Every single time she looks at her, I get a sense of familiarity" (6.53), she says of Jessa. Or check out the part where Taylor shares the story of Hannah's manuscript with her: "Jessa makes me repeat the story of the boy who came riding by on the stolen by at least twice" (18.6). Jessa's definitely someone who should follow her gut.

Ultimately, one of the really cool things about this story is seeing Jessa and Taylor's relationship change from being basically one-sided to recognizing the strong ties between them. The last thing Fitz said to Taylor before he shot himself was, "Take care of my little girl" (19.74). As the true meaning of that sentence dawns on Taylor, it's clear that from the end of the book onward, things are going to change between these two, and Jessa will be better for it.