Devil's Ballast by Meg Caddy

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Text Publishing Company, 2019. 305p; p/b. ISBN: 9781925773460.
(Age: 14+) When Anne Bonney disguises herself as a pirate to escape her abusive husband, pirate hunter Jonathan Barnet relentlessly hunts her crew down. Much of the focus of Devil's Ballast is on the primary themes of abuse, trauma and revenge. Both main characters are haunted by traumatic events from their pasts, and the plot is driven by their attempts to seek revenge for it. By juxtaposing two victims as protagonist and villain, the novel inherently makes a statement about whether revenge is a healthy coping method, but definitely avoids judgemental black-and-white moralising. With the novel's exploration of deeply personal themes, characterisation is vital, and Caddy gets it spot on. The reader spends a lot of time in Bonny and Barnet's heads, getting to know them and the differences well, while more minor characters still have unique memorable traits without belabouring unnecessary details.
The first-person perspective, switching between the two viewpoint characters, is beneficial both for characterisation, and the theme, giving the reader a peek into their traumatic flashbacks. The plot is action-filled and exciting, keeping the reader engaged while providing ample opportunity for the characters' issues to drive the themes. The setting is firmly an explicitly rooted in the Golden Age of Piracy, with time-relative references to Blackbeard and Caribbean locales like Nassau being central to the plot. Teacher's notes are available.
Vincent Hermann