Title: Bloody Jack
Author: L.A. Meyer
ISBN: 0330418106, Macmillan, 2003
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, #1 in the Jacky Faber series
Source: Christmas gift from Denis
First Line: My name is Jacky Faber and in London I was born, but, no, I wasn't born with that name.
It's 1797 in London, and little Mary Faber's family has just died of the plague. In order to survive, she takes up with a gang of street urchins, but it's a rough, dangerous life, and Mary hopes for something better. She disguises herself as a boy, changes her name to Jacky and signs on as a ship's boy on the HMS Dolphin. Life at sea is adventure indeed, and Jacky has just the voice to tell us about it all.
I'm not an audio book fan, but I can see the books in this series being perfect for it because Jacky has such a strong, unique voice. The plot moves right along as Jacky gets herself out of one scrape after another. She tells us what it's like the first time a landlubber finds herself on the open sea; she philosophizes about dresses; she deals with peeing standing up; and she voices her opinion on tattoos:
I agree with all my heart, thinking about how I'd have some real explainin' to do if I grow up to be a lady and get married and on my wedding night my husband discovers a naked dancing girl tattooed on my tail. Course, I'd rather not get a tattoo at all.
What makes Jacky so different from so many of the other women-disguised-as-men is that she isn't mannish at all. She makes it quite clear that her disguise is a matter of survival and nothing more. She has dreams of wearing dresses, falling in love, getting married, and having children. Me having had a much more tomboyish outlook for most of my life, I found that the only thing that drove me nuts about Jacky was her tendency to screech and cry whenever she got in trouble. Fortunately it drove the captain mad as well; there was a time or two I was ready to throw 'er overboard!
If you or someone you know is in the mood for something fast-paced and fun that gives a real feeling for the time period, by all means give Bloody Jack a try. Chances are you'll be cheering Jacky on just as much as I did. Now I've got to get out me spyglass and find the rest of the books in this series.