Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

From the inside flap of Ship Breaker, "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. . . ."

Winner of the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, the novel opens as Nailer Lopez is scavenging in the shipwrecks off the coast of a post apocalyptic world characterized by greed and environmental disasters. He is part of the Crew that must meet quota of scrap copper and metal. Nailer hits the jackpot when he discovers a pocket of oil that could be his ticket out of life on Bright Sands Beach where he lives in a shanty with his abusive and drug-addicted father. But the Fates have a different plan and an horrendous hurricane strikes the area. During the course of the storm, a luxurious clipper ship is beached and Nailer and his friend come upon it. The find that it is filled with treasures that will surely provide a means out of their horrible existence. They will have the leverage to scavenge the wealth and store the food. But in the midst of the wreckage, they find a beautiful girl, "Swank Girl," who presents them with a real dilemma. Barely conscious, she convinces them she can lead them to more wealth when she will be rescued by those who will come looking for her. But then, Nailer and Pima won't be able to take the items from the ship. Add to this picture, Nailer's father who also finds the wreckage and is determined to stand in the way of his son's good fortune.

The journey to escape leads to places beyond the shore and to the city of Orleans. Pursued by half men, masters and patrons, Nailer has one thing on his mind to save himself and his friends. It is a dystopian society that is presented. At times it seems futuristic and at other times, very much in the past. There are technological advances and genetic engineering. Political statements are made. There is the tension of a great science fiction novel and the characters are well developed and dynamic. The ending leaves the reader with the notion that there will be at least one sequel and it will be anxiously awaited.

Young adults will love this book, the excitement, and discovering a world that could be. It comes on the heels of The Hunger Games trilogy and will be as exciting to teens as those books were. It was a good book, and if I really liked this genre, a great book. I am not sure if I was disappointed by the book itself or by the fact that the book has been so hyped.

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