Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer; Harcourt, Inc.:
New York, 2002; $17
Sometime in your life you most likely will experience the thrill of getting involved with something and loving it. It brings about new friends, new adventures, and sometimes even new hopes and a better life. Unfortunately, this new experience may not really be what you had overall expected. For example, many kids take up playing an instrument and get hooked on the idea of giving an exceptional concert. A lot of times the kids don't realize that practicing and rehearsals take time and energy. I realized this after I started violin lessons!
In Bloody Jack, an exciting new change also occurs. It is the eighteenth century and Mary Faber had been living on the streets in London. She is an orphan and she was living with a group of friends. The book called it a gang but I was surprised because everyone in the gang was so sweet and kind to one another and protected each other from harm. This new way to look at some gangs as being nice, substitute families touched me and now I will never look at gangs the same way again. When the leader of the family gang is mysteriously found dead in a nearby alley, Mary brushes away her grief and disguises herself as a boy.
"Jacky" gets taken in on a ship going out to sea because she can read fairly well. Life starts to look up. She meets a group of boisterous boys and battles pirates, killing one and therefore earning her the name Bloody Jack. But killing is not as heroic as she had thought, and the gore and cannons terrify her. She gets sick at the beings and blood all around her. She never really got over the shock of her first real battle, as I never really got over the shock of my first time at "Laser Quest" (a game indoors where each person tries to zap another person with his or her laser gun). I related to Jacky here because I felt both overwhelmed and excited about the game at first glance. But, like Jacky, I was aghast at the idea that people were actually shooting at me! Bloody Jack is not a light read. Shootings and diabolical pirates cost lives from the ship. Jacky constantly has to watch out for her own safety, and when she relaxes she gets sexually harassed and beaten up!
I had to put down this book a couple of times because the events seemed to be just too awful for me to continue. Happy experiences where Jacky was fully comfortable with what she was doing were scarce. I was disappointed that there were not a lot of passages with pure adventure. Sure, there were disputes and passages about what everyone did on the ship, but I felt the book was missing a lot of description, character development, and the supposed thrills of adventure on a ship. I was so relieved to be reading something exciting when Jacky was abandoned on an island in the ocean. She had to fend for herself and the plot was based more on her survival than her love life. I remembered the time I explored an island in the middle of a big lake and how I felt so little and alone compared to the natural wisdom of the plants. I thought that must be how Jacky felt!
Bloody Jack is a complex, rather depressing, high-level read that will most definitely stir the reader and make them appreciate the little happy things in life.