The Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A. Meyer is one of my all-time favorite book series. The twelve books follow Miss Jacky ‘Bloody Jack’ Faber, a young London orphan who masquerades as a boy to become a crew member aboard a British navy ship, the HMS Dolphin. Jacky starts her adventures on the Dolphin but soon finds herself in various exciting and terrifying situations around the world. L.A. Meyer was an incredible story teller who wasn’t afraid to get creative, and though he has passed away since the last book was published, he continues to amass loyal readers who will carry on Jacky’s tales and adventures.
There are a few reasons I love this series so much but let’s start with our wonderfully unconventional heroine, Miss Mary “Jacky” Faber (also known as Bloody Jack as well as several other complimentary and not-so-complimentary names), London orphan, ship’s boy, temptress, and actress extraordinaire. We first meet Jacky as a young girl (around eleven years-old), as part of a London street gang. When she discovers that her gang’s leader has been murdered, Jacky decides to try her luck out at sea, as a boy, and gains work as a ship’s boy aboard the HMS Dolphin. Jacky has A TON of spunk, a big brain, and an even bigger heart. It’s clear from the beginning that she’s been living in survival mode for a long time and you can’t help but root for the young girl just trying to stay alive and make some friends.
Jacky is certainly not your typical heroine. Sure, she’s down on her luck and needs some saving but she takes matters into her own hands, which is especially impressive considering she’s only eleven years-old. Jacky’s antics impersonating a boy are hysterical and you can’t help but laugh as she learns the ropes aboard the ship, among young and fully grown men. Her language is coarse, her actions unlearned, and there are times you’ll want to cringe at her antics, but you can’t help but fall in love with this boisterous hoyden! Jacky grows throughout the twelve books and through her various guises; from ship’s boy to young lady to pirate queen, Jacky does it all and then some. But what would this girl be without the incredible L.A. Meyer?
L.A. Meyer was a gifted storyteller with a flair for theatrics. I started this series as a young girl, probably when I was twelve, and I was shocked when I found out the author was a man. Though Jacky starts her story solely among men, and as a young boy herself, she is an incredibly relate-able female character, so major kudos to Meyer for capturing a young girl so well! And kudos for taking a small bit of history and turning it into a twelve book series. That’s right, Jacky is based off an actual historical figure! I don’t want to give away too much, because you should really read the books yourself, but Meyer found several pieces of evidence that point to a historical figure who lived an unconventional, yet incredible, life back in the early nineteenth century. The way he was able to take small pieces of history and turn them into such intricate adventures is the sign of true genius and dedication. It’s sad that we will no longer be gifted with his writing, but the stories Meyer was able to impart will stay with me forever.
Part of Meyer’s gift was his ability to forge realistic, entertaining, and heart-warming relationships among his characters. Jacky can be dramatic, selfish, and difficult, but she’s also brave, loyal, and a fierce friend. She cultivates a diverse group of friends and enemies around the world who love and hate her for very similar reasons, but the people she befriends stay with her to the very end. Jacky’s friends are just as important to the story as Jacky herself and it’s truly impressive how Meyer is able to forge such complex feelings in his characters. Some of the relationships (especially between Jacky and her male friends) are dramatic, but the drama is well contained and entertaining. The colorful array of secondary characters add laughs and dimension, and it’s fun when Mayer pulls an older character into a newer adventure. It’s easy to become attached to Jacky and Co. and you definitely feel as if you’re on the high seas or in the streets of Boston with them!
Jacky and her adventures are fun but they also teach valuable lessons about life, love, and friendship. And best of all, these lessons are appropriate for young readers. The books do reference mature content such as sex (IT never actually occurs) but it’s realistic, relevant to Jacky’s coming of age, and not at all inappropriate. As a young girl, I enjoyed the romance part of the books, but as I got older, I came to appreciate the friendships Jacky makes even more than the romance. Jacky learns a lot about bravery, friendship, hardship, and forgiveness and readers certainly learn right along with her.
The books I read as a young girl helped mold me into the young woman I am today, and the Bloody Jack Series was certainly a contributor to this development. Jacky is smart, confident, authentic, and courageous, and while she also has faults, she a pretty kickass book heroine for young girls to look up to. Whether you’re a parent looking for an appropriate series for your young reader, or a young reader yourself, you can be sure that Bloody Jack won’t disappoint. You get adventure, romance, friendship and life lessons all rolled into one amazing series!