“Bloody Jack” – What Level Of Sexual Content Is Appropriate In A Young Adult Novel?

Book Review : Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Spoiler Alert!

Mary Faber is thrust on the streets as an orphan when her parents and sister die. Her clothes are stolen and then she is taken in by the Charlie the Rooster, the leader of one of the gangs of orphans, where she is taught to beg and steal to survive. After Charlie is murdered, Mary finds a new gang leader for the remaining children, and leaves to seek her fortune as a boy, Jack. Mary finds it is a lot easier to be a boy. The officers of the HMS Dolphin are looking for a few boys to join their crew and Mary, now known as Jack, is selected when she demonstrates that she can read. The HMS Dolphin is in search of pirates, to relieve them of their treasure and stop their thievery. While sailing Jacky becomes tight mates with the other ships boys, but she also acquires enemies among the crew. Everything depends upon her secret.

Adult Point of View

I felt nervous through the entire novel for fear of what atrocities could happen to the protagonist. As an orphan there was the danger of being killed or captured to work in a brothel. On board the ship Jacky was in fear of being raped by a lascivious crew member, who didn’t even care if she was a boy or a girl. When Mary/Jacky starts her period she thinks she is dying, which I find hard to believe that a girl growing up on the streets wouldn’t know about menstruation or reproduction. When she finally reveals her secret to Jaime, the boy she has been doting over she has to use all of her powers of persuasion to keep them away from having sex because of the danger of pregnancy.  Mary comments that a skirt is inconvenient for a girl to wear and is disturbed thinking perhaps that is the point of a skirt, to more easily compromise a girl. Bloody Jack felt trite and one dimensional, it offered nothing new with a girl pretending to be a boy.

There are fun moments in this novel and probably has a lot of historical accuracies, however, I didn’t really enjoy it. I felt alarmed when I read this was for kids over the age of 12 because of the constant references to sexuality. I am not comfortable having that young of teens reading this book. I don’t have a good answer for what level of sexual content is appropriate in a young adult novel. Generally, I feel that kids need to receive a balanced perspective about sexuality and need their parents to help define the boundaries for morality. Bloody Jack seems to talk about sex, sexuality and gives a nuance that abuse is wrong, but there is not a sense of balance. Though this is a popular series I cannot recommend it.

2 out of 5 stars

– the Mother

Teen Point of View

She has not read this book because of the level of sexuality.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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7 Responses to “Bloody Jack” – What Level Of Sexual Content Is Appropriate In A Young Adult Novel?

  1. Nathaniel Berkley says:

    I appreciate your concern over the book, but I think it is not inappropriate for that age group. Although it might be uncomfortable for girls to read it, most of the people in this age range know the workings of reproduction. I, personally, went through the school program about sex as early as 5th grade, and I didn’t discover the book until I visited the Middle school library, so, in my opinion, it is okay for most people 12 and up to read it.

    • You are correct that is probably fine for most young teens to read it. I tend to be very conservative about what I like to see my kids read. For some reason this author rubbed me the wrong way. I think the biggest reason I didn’t like the book was because of the writing style and ridiculous situation in addition to the sexual content. There are other books that are quite ridiculous that I enjoyed, such as, Leviathan.

  2. Jadd says:

    I read this book when I was eleven, and it only confirmed that things I had heard about around school did, indeed, happen in real life. I have now read the first nine books, and I enjoy the other parts of the books.

  3. Carrie Ott says:

    Thank you SO much for your book review. It was exactly what I was looking for. I had just glanced at the reviews on Amazon and bought book 2 from the library book sale, for my daughter. She was listening to it in the living room when a part came on about Jackie being thrown in jail and the jailer doing something inappropriate to her. It made me uncomfortable, so I decided to investigate further into the books before we continued. With so many great books to spend our time reading, we will skip this series!

    • I’m glad the review was helpful. Too often I get push back from people who say that I’m too old fashioned and that kids need to know what the “real world” is like. I love seeing parents who care about their kids!

      Depending on the age of your daughter I loved, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (it’s hysterical for me too), Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George and I know there’s lots more out there, but they slip my mind at the moment. Good luck!

  4. Sarah Reach says:

    I love this book series as an adult, but I would never recommend it for anyone under High School age. It is pretty realistic, but covers very adult topics such as pedophilia, sexual assault, as well as pretty graphic descriptions of violence (drowning and hanging scenes). It is in my opinion a very well written historical fiction adventure, but not appropriate for younger teens. I place it in the higher YA category.

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