Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publication Date: May 1st, 2010
Page Count: 326 pages
Summary: Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. 

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

Review: Although I never got to see this cover in-person (I bought this on my Nook!), I've heard it is absolutely beautiful, mostly from Maggie Stiefvater's review. (It's weird, the past two books I've read, she's reviewed them!)

Anyway, this book is absolutely amazing. The world-building is awesome as well as super realistic--sometimes in scary ways. The life that Nailer and his group of friends lead are not glamorous to say the least and they're lucky if they have enough food to eat, let alone any luxury. Nailer's life is even worse, if only because of his SCARY abusive father. (Let me tell you, that man scared the crap out of me. Whenever he came into a scene, I was literally afraid.) But then, Nailer finds Nita, who he deems Lucky Girl, and it seems like his life will be turned around, for the better, if only he could get her back to her parents. He'll be what everyone calls a Lucky Strike, after a man who owns a salvaging company that basically bought his own freedom.

I'm always a fan of sci-fi that creates its own slang. I thought it was done especially well in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and it was done well in Ship Breaker also. It just makes the society, which was already pretty realistic, even more so.

The characters themselves are as amazing as the story. Nailer wanted to be bad-ass and show no mercy, kind of like his father (but not quite as addicted to drugs), but that just wasn't in his personality. At one point, he has a chance to kill Nita and steal all of her jewels, which are worth more than anything he's ever seen before, but he decides not to, and that defines his character throughout the rest of the book. At the end, there is a final showdown with his father, who is pretty much the antagonist of the book, and it does not disappoint. Nailer's friends were equally well-developed--I especially like the half-man (I forget his name!), who helps he and Nita out near the middle of the book. I hope his character comes back!

Overall, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It was brutal, but I think it could also appeal to younger YA readers, especially boys, because there is tons of action and not too much romance (although the amount of it was definitely satisfying). I would definitely recommend it!

Overall: 4.5/5 stars

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