Module 3 YA Printz Award-Ship Breaker

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. New York, Little, Brown, and Company. 2010. Print. ISBN 9780316056199

Ship Breaker is a fast paced adventure following a boy named Nailer, who is also called Lucky Boy. Nailer is a ship breaker, a person who works to take apart the rusting ships from the Accelerated Age, on Bright Sands Beach. His light crew, or technically his friend Pima’s light crew as she is crew boss, is in charge of recovering things like brass fittings and copper wiring, which requires Nailer to crawl through the ducts of the ships. After surviving what should have been a deadly accident, Nailer is christened Lucky Boy.

When a city killer storm (what the reader later finds out is worse than a category six hurricane) destroys most of the shacks that the people of Bright Sands live in, Pima and Nailer go scavenging for food since they can’t work at ship breaking. Instead of food they find a “swank,” a young rich girl from the north on her fancy clipper ship. When Nailer tells Pima to let her live, he unknowingly starts an adventure that will put his new name to the test.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in Ship Breaker is the setting. While the genetically engineered half-men are chilling, and the near magical clipper ships are awe inspiring, the setting is what makes it real. It takes several chapters for enough hints to be dropped to figure it out, but the characters talk about Orleans and Orleans II being underwater (swampland now). They mention Boston being a swank city. At one point Nita, the swank girl who Prima and Nailer call Lucky Girl, waves a hand towards the ocean and mentions that they used to harvest oil from the Gulf. So Bright Sands Beach is in Louisiana, but one that has been flooded due to city killer storms and the Arctic melting.

Bacigalupi crafts characters that the reader can invest in. Even Sloth, who at first appears to be a main character and quickly falls out of the big picture, is someone the reader can relate to. The reader doesn’t want Nailer’s luck to run out or Pima’s smarts to not be enough. Even the characters that you aren’t supposed to really like, Lucky Strike, Bapi, Blue Eyes, and Nailer’s frequently drunk and high (and always violent) father, Richard Lopez, have some element of humanity that a reader can recognize.

Ship Breaker is an ageless book, in that tweens can enjoy this book just as much as seniors in high school. Nailer doesn’t know his age. It isn’t an issue. All that matters is how small you are for light crew or how big you are for heavy crew. In fact, it isn’t until a swank adult asks Nailer’s age that such a concept even comes up. His age doesn’t matter. The fact that the main character is a boy doesn’t inherently make this a book for boys. While it could be considered a coming of age book, it is more about maturing as yourself that passing from childhood to adulthood.None of the children on Bright Sands Beach are what a reader today would consider childlike.


Printz Award Winner-2011
Cybil Award Finalist-2010
Young Reader’s Award Nominee-2013


BookList—“Clearly respecting his audience, Bacigalupi skillfully integrates his world building into the compelling narrative, threading the backstory into the pulsing action. The characters are layered and complex, and their almost unthinkable actions and choices seem totally credible.”

Kirkus—“In Bacigalupi’s defiled, depressing landscape populated by mercenary humans and mechanical dog-men, Nailer’s loyalty offers hope. Told in the third person, this stark, surreal story sends an alarm to heed the warning signs of climate change or suffer a similar fate.”


Kirkus. April 2010. (Vol.78, No. 7) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at

Rutan, Lynn. Booklist. May 2010. (Vol. 106, No. 18) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at



Module 2 YA Banned and Challenged-The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York, Gallery Books. 1999. Print. ISBN 9781451696202

Chbosky’s novel can most easily be described as a work full of contradictions. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a collection of letters from Charlie, whose name isn’t Charlie, to someone he doesn’t know. Because of this fact, it is easy for the reader to feel like Charlie is writing these very honest letters directly to the reader. There’s no sense of being out of the loop. The letters cover the very tail end of Charlie’s eighth-grade year to the night before his sophomore year of high school.

In essence, it covers the wonderfully horrendous period of the teenage life known as freshman year.

From the very beginning, there is something slightly off about Charlie’s voice. The fact that he is writing to someone he doesn’t know, while hoping they’ll understand, the fact that the first few letters are about a neighbor’s suicide that deeply effects Charlie, and the fact that he repeatedly mentions being in a bad place or needing to not think too much are all quiet clues considering his otherwise completely reliable voice. In fact, his straightforward lucidity (even when accidentally high) is a large part of why the reader can both trust and invest in Charlie.

Patrick and Sam are the two friends Charlie unexpectedly makes. Patrick, Sam, and Bill (Charlie’s English teacher) are the reason Charlie begins participating in live, rather than observing, coming to some (usually bizarrely right) understanding, and doing nothing.

If set beside more recent publications, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is surprisingly tame. Not that it doesn’t cover all that the dust jacket promises, “the world of first dates, family dramas and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and the rocky horror picture show. Of…growing up.” The truth is, it does cover all of that, and it covers it well. What it doesn’t do is dwell on the wrongness or rightness of it. It presents things as cold facts and moves on. While there is never a question of ‘Is that character really doing that?’ there is also never a large amount of detail given to action. Charlie is more interested in the people and the reason than the action.

This would be a great book for those around this awkward year. For eighth graders, it’s looking at high school through a different lens. For freshmen, well, they’re living that year. Sophomores can look back and see that they made it. Which is kind of the whole point, despite the revelation at the end, Charlie made it.

Another interesting thing to note is the role of books in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. While they are primarily used as an escape, the ones Bill suggests are also used to show how Charlie is changing by “participating” and just living. That he gives the copies of the books he read away as graduation gifts to Patrick and Sam is just as telling about Charlie as the fact that he gets mad when his girlfriend gives him a new unread copy of a book she likes to gush about. It is a quiet reminder that books are important, and we can sometimes mark our growth as a person to what we read when.

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2000
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2000

VOYA—“Charlie is an observer. A bright loner, the new high school freshman becomes the mascot and confidant of a group of older students. In a voice that is both naive and omniscient, he records the tragic and mundane events in the lives of his friends and family, using a series of remarkable letters addressed to his ‘dear friend.’…The novel has the disjointed and almost dreamlike quality of a music video. Charlie’s freshman year provides a framework for the story, with flashbacks to his childhood.”

Hansen, Jamie S. VOYA. 1999. (Vol.22, No.5) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at

Module 1 YA Classics-Beauty

Module 1-YA Classics
McKinley, Robin. Beauty. New York, Pocket Books. 1978. ISBN 0671733338
McKinley’s Beauty is a retelling of Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. While Beauty has all of the expected hallmarks of a “young girl falls in love with the man within the monster” story, it also includes variations on the original tale that are often left out of the more contemporary retellings, such as Beauty’s two sisters or the fact that her father is a merchant who has fallen on bad times. Despite the fact that the ending is pleasantly predictable, which if it were otherwise would be a problem for a retelling of this classic tale, the novel is an enjoyable and quick read.

For the most part, it isn’t that McKinley does something new in Beauty that makes it memorable; it’s that she does the story well. Rather than reinventing the story, she adds depth to the already well know tale. She makes Beauty an androgynous character to her community, yet distinctly feminine in her thoughts. She makes beauty real in that, as the youngest, Beauty compares herself to her sisters. She calls herself a sparrow several times, and her self-descriptions, those of a mousy haired, muddy eyed girl, support that. In fact, Beauty is such a reliable voice, that until Beast sticks her in front of a mirror, it is easy for the reader to see a slightly plain girl in finery (and protesting said finery) roaming the grounds and halls of the castle.

Beauty is set in a magical version of our world. In fact, if it weren’t for the books, both those that Beauty read in the city, such as Socrates and Euripidies, and those in Beast’s library that haven’t been written yet, specifically Robert Browning’s poetry and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, the reader could easily assume the whole world is some fairytale “elsewhere.” In fact, some of the classic fairytale or other-world elements are either missing or explained away neatly, making it that much more realistic. For example, in classic fairy worlds, time flows differently. While initially this appears to be true, the garden doesn’t wither and the roses Beast sends Beauty grow and bloom at an alarming rate, the reader later finds out that time flows at the same rate, as seen via Beast’s scrying table. Rather the garden, and the weather in general, are explained by Beast controlling part of the enchantment on the castle. He states this matter-of-factly, easily allowing the reader to accept this at face value, and move on to examining the characters, rather than the magical setting.

As someone who has read, and enjoyed, some of McKinley’s newer works, I was ready for an enjoyable slog through mystical mud. Meaning, I was expecting a well written, if difficult, read with an almost Tolkien-esque attention to setting. Instead, I got a fun romp through an intriguing, if mostly prefabricated, world.


Books for Keeps—“ It is exactly what it professes to be, a retelling of the traditional story of Beauty and the Beast, playing fair and straight, with no labouring to update or displace or play clever narrative tricks with the familiar version, and not the slightest effort to politicize or moralize it.”
(Another interesting review is this one from Amazon)
Amazon—“ Rather than giving her story a contrived “twist,” McKinley merely fleshes out the storyline and gives the characters personalities.”
(It is interesting to note, that many of the current reviews of Beauty I read on Goodreads point out that there is nothing special about the story. It isn’t in a modern, or futuristic, setting. There isn’t any teenage angst. It’s essentially a fairy tale, which apparently is a problem with modern adult readers.)


Harwood, Pam. Books For Keeps. May 2003. (No. 130.) Accessed via CLCD at

Solinas, E. A. Amazon. 2004.