Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventure of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy
Meyer, L.A. (2007). Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventure of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy. New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. ISBN: 9781593160944.
"Even with a fleet of well armed boats the Fervor is foolish to take on a kings ship. These smaller ships swarm about us pepperin' us with bullets and cannon balls. The master has been hit with chain shot and taken below, most of him. -Chapter 18"
Bloody Jack is the story of an orphan girl named Jacky. After her street gang of beggars die she is forced to find a new means of survival and disguises herself as a 10 year old boy so that she she can join the English Navy.
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy is the first in a series of historical fiction novels about Mary "Jacky" Faber, or Bloody Jack as she is so aptly named after killing a pirate. This book might remind some of Oliver Twist or The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but more modern and grittier.
For example, the story starts off with Mary begging with her friend and mentor Charlie until he is killed. There are several other killings throughout the story by Mary's own hands once she becomes a ship boy such as the killing of a pirate, and a man on the ship that tries to sodomize Mary not knowing that she is not a he. Other more modern issues that might have been considered taboo during the times of the two previous books mentioned are those of female menstruation and sexual activity from a female perspective.
It should be noted that L.A. Meyers is male, but tells the story from Bloody Jack's female perspective, and I think he does a good job. Mary blossoms from a girl that easily resembles a boy to a girl going through puberty, and then a girl who finds herself developing feelings for her fellow shipmate, Jaimy.
Though this is historical fiction, it is fantastic and light, yet enjoyable. The story is told in a whimsical cockney accent which takes a bit of getting used to, but eventually does happen. Also, Mary "Bloody Jack" Faber can be pretty self deprecating at times, for instance I remember her describing herself as thin lipped and leather at one point in time. I related her early 19th century insecurities to ones a 12-13 year old girl would have today.
I would definitely recommend this book to young adults, and especially girls. As far as character development is concerned L.A. Meyer does a great job of making Jacky a likeable character with her quick wit, insights, filthy mouth by those times standards, and self depreciation. I would definitely consider her a character, and I look forward to reading other books in the series.
Reviews:Bloody Jack is a a rollicking good time, a colorful yarn with a lively protagonist and a boatload of action. Once begun, the book is difficult to put down; once completed, it's hard not to leap immediately into the next in the series.
-Tom Knapp, A Reader's Review
Meyer evokes life in the 18th-century Royal Navy with Dickensian flair. He seamlessly weaves into Jacky's first-person account a wealth of historical and nautical detail at a time when pirates terrorized the oceans. Interspersed are humorous asides about her ongoing struggle to maintain "The Deception" (she fashions herself a codpiece and emulates the "shake-and-wiggle action" of the other boys when pretending to use the head, for instance), she earns her titular nickname in a clash with pirates and survives a brief stretch as a castaway before her true identity is discovered (the book ends as she's about to be shipped off to a school for young ladies in Boston). The narrative's dialect occasionally falters, but this detracts only slightly from the descriptive prose ("He's got muscles like a horse and looks to have a brain to match") and not at all from the engine driving this sprawling yarn: the spirited heroine's wholly engaging voice. Her budding sexuality (which leads to a somewhat flawed plotline involving a secret shipboard romance) and a near-rape by a seaman mark this one for older readers, who will find the salty tale a rattling good read. Ages 12-up.
Grade 6-8-With the plague running rampant in London in 1797, Mary's parents and sister are soon counted among the dead. Left alone and penniless, the eight-year-old is taken in by a gang of orphans and learns survival skills. However, when their leader is killed, Mary decides to try her luck elsewhere. She strips the dead body, cuts her hair, renames herself Jack Faber, and is soon employed as a ship's boy on the HMS Dolphin. When the vessel sees its first skirmish with a pirate ship, her bravery saves her friend Jaimy and earns her the nickname "Bloody Jack." Told by Mary/Jack in an uneven dialect that sometimes doesn't ring true, the story weaves details of life aboard the Dolphin. Readers see how she changes her disguise based on her own physical changes and handles the "call of nature," her first experiences with maturation, and the dangers to boys from unscrupulous crew members. The protagonist's vocabulary, her appearance and demeanor, and her desire to be one of the boys and do everything they do without complaint complete the deception. This story also shows a welcome slant to this genre with an honorable, albeit strict Captain, and ship's mates who are willing and able teachers. If readers are looking for a rousing, swashbuckling tale of pirates and adventures on the high seas, this title falls short. However, it is a good story of a brave ship's "boy" with natural leadership abilities and a sense of fair play and humanity.
-School Library Journal