There was a time back in the early 2000s when the coolest thing in entertainment was pirates. Thanks to Johnny Depp’s belligerently swaggering Jack Sparrow, the world was obsessed with tales of high-flying adventures on the sea and charming, sometimes dastardly swashbucklers. They were sexy, they were witty, they made you secretly want to become one of them. Or, at least, they certainly made me want to be a pirate.
Then, suddenly, we were over it. The Pirates of the Carribean movies got increasingly worse, and we all went and found new obsessions (like vampires and girls who were really good at archery). It seemed like the world suddenly forgot how enduringly fascinating pirates can be. I, however, remain loyal to my rum-swigging, treasure-hunting loves. So kick up your wooden leg and have a read: here are some of the saltiest swashbuckling YAs.
The Dust of 100 Dogs, by A.S. King
All the points for creativity go to this one. Emer is a fearsome teenage pirate who’s about to head for Ireland with her treasure and lover in tow. But before she can make her final escape, her lover is murdered and she’s cursed by an enemy to live the lives of 100 dogs. Many canine lifetimes later, she’s reborn into a human body in the modern world. And guess what? She still wants that treasure she buried hundreds of years ago.
Mad Kestrel, by Misty Massey
Pirates! And magic! In Kestrel’s world, any child born with magical powers is taken from their family and raised by the powerful Danisoba. Kestrel hides her abilities from the world and sets out to sea, hoping none of her shipmates notice she’s able to do something pretty useful for a sailor: control the wind. Of course, high sea hijinx ensue, especially when a particularly handsome pirate enters the picture.
Pirates!, by Celia Rees
The title of this one doesn’t leave too much to the imagination. After Nancy’s father dies, she goes to live on her family’s plantation in Jamaica. She’s not cool with her brother’s attempts to marry her off, however, and she’s REALLY not cool with the way her family treats their slaves, so she runs off with a slave girl called Minerva. The two join a band of pirates, throwing off the restrictions of their gender and their pasts.
Pieces of Jade, by Lani Woodland
Jade has powers that allow her to keep her kingdom’s land fertile. After pirates steal her magical medallion, however, she’s sentenced to death. Now she has to escape the kingdom, sneak aboard the pirate ship, and get that medallion back…all before the kingdom kills her sister in her place.
The Assassin’s Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clark
There’s a romantic pirate in all of us. Ananna runs away after being engaged to a member of another pirate gang, and her would-be groom’s family sends an assassin after her. But a magical mishap ends up binding Ananna and her assassin, Naji, together, and now the two must work to break the curse. Unsurprisingly, luuuuurve ensues.