by Celia Rees

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

Pirates! is the dramatic story of Nancy, an eighteenth-century English girl who escapes from a disastrous marriage by joining a pirate crew. Although Nancy's story is fiction, it was inspired by two real pirates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, women Nancy resembles in her determination if not in her essentially kind nature. It was said of Anne, for example, that at age thirteen she stabbed a kitchen servant. Nancy would do such a thing only in self-defense, although she is every bit as brave and resourceful as a female pirate would need to have been.

Her story is full of excitement long before she actually turns pirate. She falls in love with a sailor, discovers sinister truths about her father's shipping business, and is sent to the West Indies where she is threatened with marriage to a man she fears and despises. By the time she takes up the life of a pirate, she already knows a few things about courage and trusting her instincts - things that will come in handy in her new life at sea. She also learns that greed can be dangerous.

Above all, Pirates! is an adventure story, but readers will learn real history along the way. Woven into Nancy's tale are heart-wrenching truths about the slave trade, sugar, and life at sea in the eighteenth century. The narrator's bold, saucily humorous voice, as she tells how she and her friend "fell into that wicked way of life and found ourselves proclaimed notorious pirates," will especially delight readers who enjoy the historical flavor of the language. Both adults and teens will find Pirates! a riveting page-turner. (2003, 380 pages. An American Library Association "Best Books for Young Adults" pick. Recommended for ages 12 and up.)

More about Pirates at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository

Other YA novels about girls at sea:

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer (2002), about an orphaned girl who disguises herself as a boy and goes to sea; #1 in the Bloody Jack series. More info

To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker (2007), historical romance about a seventeen-year-old girl traveling to the Caribbean with her father when their ship is attacked by pirates. More info

Catherine and the Pirate by Karen Hawkins (2002), historical romance about a seventeen-year-old Boston girl who decides to deliver the ransom herself after her brother is kidnapped. More info

Nonfiction about Pirates:

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen (2008), for ages 9-12. More info

She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea by Joan Druett (2000), popular history for adult readers. More info

Caribbean Pirates: A Treasure Chest of Fact, Fiction and Folklore by George Beahm (2007), for ages 9 and up. More info


The Legend of Anne and Mary, about female pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, at the Bonney-Read Krewe website

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