Castle Librarian

Jackaby and Abigail Rook

In Book Review on July 31, 2015 at 5:31 pm

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by William Ritter
ISBN 9781616203535

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Beastly Bones
By William Ritter
ISBN 9781616203542

These books are wonderful. Well written, smart, funny, unpredictable — all the things I expect from a good book.

Abigail Rook is a young English woman who has very bravely defied her parents’ plans for her to have a conventional life as the wife of a man with a good career. Abigail wants to have a career of her own. Even though she made a brave choice, her first adventure didn’t go so well and we meet her as she steps onto American shores with only her suitcase and a few coins and no plan.

She answers a peculiar job ad and meets the very peculiar R. F. Jackaby, a Sherlockian detective who possesses perception of the supernatural. (The publisher has pitched this as Sherlock/Dr. Who.) Jackaby uses his supernatural perception to solve unusual cases, but he actually lacks a perception of the non-supernatural clues. This is the gap that Abigail fills. She is very good at the skills of deduction as applied to “normal” observations. They proceed to have grand investigatory adventures.

Abigail Rook is a very strong female lead character. That isn’t so uncommon in YA literature these days — Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games, Tris of Divergent, etc., — but Abigail really stands out. (Book Riot has a great list of books with strong female characters and I agree whole heartedly with what they say about Abigail in Jackaby. Read the whole list here.)

Quote from Book Riot:

It [Jackaby] also features a headstrong, yet realistically written female protagonist name Abigail Rook. She doesn’t fall in love with the male lead, R. F. Jackaby. She doesn’t pine after him. She voices her opinion and comes to her own conclusions. If you want a little escapism without that annoying damsel-in-distress or love triangle distraction, read Jackaby.

In the first book, Abigail meets and becomes friends with Jenny, a kind of older sister figure. Jenny picks up on the fact that Abigail is attracted to the handsome, young police officer, Charlie, and encourages Abigail to follow her heart. Jenny is a sweet old fashioned girl. In Beastly Bones, Abigail meets the fiercely independent Nellie Fuller who advises Abigail that “men are never worth it.” Nellie is certain that a woman must choose between romance and career. Never the twain shall meet. Abigail is torn between the two extremes that women are often presented with. We must choose family or career. Jackaby gives Abigail the best advice: “So often,” Jackaby said, “people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but — as I have often and articulately postulated — people are stupid. We’re not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both.” (p.187)

In the world of YA, this is a breath of fresh air. YA novels are fraught with crushes, break-ups, and, worst of all, love triangles. Even when a female character is strong, romance usually means sacrifice. I have a feeling that our Miss Rook will get to be both great and happy.


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