This book was recommended to me by a co-worker after my declaration that I felt YA literature just wasn't for me. She said simply, "You're not reading the right stuff" and provided me with a stack of books. I started with this one because, hey, it's a sea adventure! I was a bit concerned when I saw the main character was named Jack because of the whole Pirates of Caribbean rip-off trend but soon discovered that it's really about a girl named Mary pretending to be a boy named Jack.
The author did a great job of depicting what it was like being an orphaned child on the streets of London in the early 19th century. The constant hunger, the filth, the disease, despair and the lengths to which a street urchin went just to survive each day are all described well but not to the point of being overwhelming. It's told from Mary's point of view and her language is fun and authentic as far as my research could discover. I even learned that the word "shiv" probably dates back to the 17th century and was associated with the thieves' cant of the times.
The story moves along smoothly with Mary going to sea posing as a boy in order to see the world and perhaps have a full belly most days. There's plenty of interesting history and a good view of life in His Majesty's Navy. I would have to do more research to know how plausible some of it was but my previous reading indicates that the education of the midshipmen and other sailors took place pretty much as the book depicts and the author makes a plausible case for this young girl using her early literacy skills (her father was a school teacher) to further her lot in life.
I found this to be a nice change from the other YA lit that I've read and I plan to explore the rest of the books I was given!