Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book Jacket

Even at night, the wrecks glowed with work.  The torch lights flickered, bobbing and moving.  Sledge noise rang across the water.  Comforting sounds of work and activity, the air tanged with the coal reek of smelters and the salt fresh breeze coming off the water.  It was beautiful.

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day.  But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.


I would have given up on this book in the first couple chapters if it hadn't been nominated for the Illinois Lincoln Award and had won the Printz Award.  I'm glad I stuck with it!  Ship Breaker is a great example of settling into a book--the poverty-striken world of the future was so foreign that it took several chapters for me to fully sink into the world and the story.  But that's necessary, because Bacigalupi has created an incredibly well-conceived future.  The language, the technology, the climate, the landscapes were so believable I almost thought the author was a time traveler.

On the surface, Ship Breaker is a fantastic adventure story about a boy with an abusive father, a dead end life, and a possibility for more.  Under that are a whole host of themes like nature vs. nurture, and how poverty affects a person's priorities and trust.  There's a lot going on, tunneling through barges, jumping on trains, and basically living a pirate life (that was my favorite part).

However.  I don't think I'll be reading the sequel.  Have you ever read a book that was good, but you weren't in love with?  I feel like I ought to be head over heels for Ship Breaker!  I can't think of why I don't love it.  It just didn't hit all my buttons, I guess.  But I still recommend it to others whole-heartedly!

Four out of five Lucky Strikes.

Release Date:  May 2010
Reading Level: Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: LINCOLN

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