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 http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=2&isbn=9780316056212
Rutan, Lynn. Booklist. May 2010. (Vol. 106, No. 18) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=2&isbn=9780316056212