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BLOODY JACK by L.A. Meyer

BLOODY JACK

By L.A. Meyer

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-15-216731-5
Publisher: Harcourt

Posing as a lad in the late 1790s, a spunky orphan girl secures a job as a ship’s boy in the British Navy, a position that becomes compromised by her evolving maturity and love for a fellow crewmember. Meyer, a debut novelist, has penned a rousing old-time girl’s adventure story, with an outsized heroine who is equal parts gutsy and vulnerable, then sets her loose on a pirate-hunting vessel in the high seas. The novel is full of action and derring-do, but the real suspense is generated by maintaining what the heroine calls “The Deception,” her disguise as a boy. Initially, it’s fairly easy because Jacky, as the heroine decides to call herself, is as flat-chested, hairless, and high-voiced as the rest of the boys. She simulates using the ship’s head, imitating the boys’ “shake-and-wiggle action” and even creates a faux penis out of cloth under her drawers, so that she’s as “well rigged out” as the rest of the lads. Clever and courageous, Jacky deals with both the ship’s bully and pedophile, fights pirates valiantly, and manages to save the day for her shipmates, enabling them to secure the buccaneers’ booty. Jacky is such a marvelous creation that the other characters feel shadowy in comparison, and the least engaging parts of the novel involve her secret romance with a fellow ship’s boy. Capped by a fitting but bittersweet ending, the first-person narrative shines, and a wealth of historical research is seamlessly knitted into the material. A first-rate read. (Fiction. 12+)