Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy

Meyer, L.A. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc. 2002. Print.


Life on the streets of London in 1797 ain't no place for an orphan - aye, it be a hard and short one. Life on a navel ship ain't no place for a girl, but for a boy it be one helluva adventure. So Mary becomes Jack, and so it begins.

Justification for Nomination:

At first I wasn't going to nominate this for our Mock-Printz, because I started to worry that I shouldn't nominate everything I liked, as the criteria for the Printz demands the highest degree of excellence. I also figured a historical fiction adventure on the high seas would be considered outside the box for fiction popular today, so wouldn't be considered for a Printz. I was just going to say how much I liked it, but still turn it away.

Then I realized that I liked this book so much more than anything else I'd read so far this semester, perhaps because adventures and historical fiction both hold a special place in my heart, so just because they aren't the fiction du jour doesn't mean they should be disqualified for the Printz. So here I go -

Louis A. Meyer really nails the back streets of London in the late 1700's - the smells, death, poverty, dirt and grit, the orphans, body-snatchers, petty thieves and cutthroats. Seen through the eyes and told with the very distinct and believable voice of a young girl named Mary Faber, Bloody Jack transcends black and white words on the page to become full technicolor life in 1797. The cockney British dialect of the lower class flavors Mary with a realism more heartfelt than many of today's modern realistic YA fictions. Forced to grow up and fend for herself at an alarmingly young age, Mary is both resourceful and shrewd, and discovers in short order that cutting off her hair and donning the clothes of her dear departed friend Charlie will afford her the safety and many freedoms not possible as a female. Seizing a rare opportunity to board a naval ship as one of six ship's boys, Mary becomes Jack, and is soon learning the ways of sailors and service, seeing the world, chasing and battling pirates.

But as adolescence intervenes, Mary has more trouble keeping up with what she calls The Deception. They say a woman on board a ship is trouble, and even though no one knows "Jack's" secret, the trouble brews anyway, putting him/her at the center of a convergence of bad blood and revenge.

Jack's voice is true, she explores what it means to be male in a man's world, and feels what it means to be shut out of a lifestyle based on gender. As she matures she discovers her female nature, finds her own moral compass, and puts aside fear and self-preservation in order to save others - all which speak to a coming-of-age theme. The other characters are detailed, nuanced and well-drawn, adding another dimension of realism to Bloody Jack - the friend, the lover, the sage, the foil - so many characters fill out the archetypical roles of the hero's journey. The twists, turns and accidents of fate that land Jack in the middle of events that miraculously save the day are so fun and unexpected, they are a delight to read; I rushed through the pages and couldn't put this down until it was done. I discovered there are nine more in the series, and if it wasn't that I had to read another assigned category, I'd be rushing to be reading them right now. What a rip-roaring and rollicking high sea's ride!

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Romance, LGBTQ

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