A character-driven YA story with a carefully crafted plot that will challenge you to think about what is right and wrong.
Jiddy Vardy was rescued as a baby from the tumultuous seas in 1779. With her dark skin and hair, she’s always known she’s an outsider in the pale, largely fair-haired, community of Robin Hood’s Bay. Now 16, Jiddy is determined to fit in: she’s desperate to join the Bay’s clandestine smuggling activities even if this means risking her life and freedom. Soon, however, her experiences lead her to question what she really wants and who should command her loyalty.
Although it is not formally divided, Jiddy Vardy is a story in three parts. Turn to chapter one and you’ll find yourself immediately plunged into a truly dramatic scene: a 16 year old gives birth at sea moments before pirates take control of the ship. These opening chapters have everything a good book needs – drama, action and emotion not to mention description so vivid that I could feel myself cringing and almost crying. Move on to chapter four, however, and you’ll find the story takes a new turn. Here we meet our feisty protagonist Jiddy as a child before taking up her story at the same age as our original character. Jiddy is an absorbing character and I was so engrossed that, by the time I reached chapter thirty-nine, I’d almost forgotten those opening three chapters. Then suddenly, all the carefully crafted elements of the plot drop into place and that powerful opening comes into its own.
I have to apologise if this review seems to be written in code but it’s hard to say more without spoiling your enjoyment of this book. On the surface this appears to be a character-driven YA story but the inclusion of those first three chapters lays the ground work for a clever plot and the final section of the book has a wonderful, and truly satisfying, climax and conclusion.
Jiddy Vardy is, however, more than just a cracking story with strong and believable characters. It’s one of those books that makes you think about issues and I was quickly absorbed in an internal debate about the rights and wrongs of the villagers’ smuggling vs the behaviour of the government’s representatives (in the form of Preventives and Dragoons) in Robin Hood’s Bay. Author, Ruth Estevez, cleverly presents a series of events and experiences that shape both Jiddy’s and the reader’s views. I was particularly impressed with the nuances of the situations and the fact that everything, including our cast of characters, has a layer of complexity.
If you enjoyed this, I’d recommend you head to your local bookstore and get yourself a copy of another wonderful historical teen story in The Goose Road by Rowena House.
Publication date: June 2018
Author’s website: Ruth Estevez