This was hands-down one of my favorite books growing up, and I happened across my old copy of it when cleaning out my basement. What better way to fill the Youths square than with a trip down memory lane, and I was not disappointed. Jackaroo, or The Tale of Gwyn, as it’s now called, was just as solid and enjoyable today as it was 22 years ago when I bought it (based on its cover) at the scholastic book fair.
Gwyn, our main character, is a young woman on the upper end of the socioeconomic scale during a brutal famine in her home country. She and her family’s inn keep them safe from most of the issues that plague the people in the nearby town and outer kingdom, but when a Lord and his son come calling at the inn in need of guides to take them on an expedition, Gwyn’s life will change forever. While she’s serving the Lord and his son, the old legends of the outlaw, Jackaroo, are on the rise spreading both fear and hope among the people trodden down by the Lords and the land. Gwyn finds herself sympathizing with Jackaroo, and will have to choose between the life her parents want for her, or the life she chooses for herself.
Published in the 1980s, this story not only withstands the test of time, it still felt as relevant reading it in 2019 as it did in 1997. While at its core, Voigt is telling the very familiar tale of a girl coming of age in a time and place where girls are meant to do as they’re told, it’s also a story of perception, breaking barriers, and fighting to change the things that everyone else is convinced can’t be changed. Gwyn is, quite literally, her own hero, taking risks and solving her own problems. Only one time in the story does someone come to her rescue, and it’s much less a rescue as it is saving her from herself. The world she lives in may be set in fantastical fuedalism, but the social problems she sees around her are no different than any of the problems we still deal with today.
Voigt’s major achievement in this book is to deal with big issues in an accessible way that’s never preachy or heavy-handed, but deals out a sucker-punch of an impact on both her characters and her reader. It’s a complicated world that Gwyn inhabits, and Voigt masterfully creates the depth of this world and the characters that inhabit it with careful strokes and excellent craft.
If you have not yet read Jackaroo, or The Tale of Gwyn, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a great heroine and amazing story.
Bingo Square: Youths
Bingo Across: Remix, True Story, Far & Away!, Youths, Reading the TBR