Nailer was born a scavenger and will most likely die one. In fact, he comes very near to drowning in a pitch-black oil reservoir in the belly of the beached tanker he is scavenging for copper when a “lucky strike” leads him to an escape hatch, spilling hundreds of gallons of “black gold” onto the beach. That evening a terrible storm hits the beach where the scavengers live, ripping apart tents and threatening to drown anyone in its path. The storm brings with it a new treasure, a high-tech, fast-sailing clipper ship with very precious cargo, a girl. Nailer must decide if he will stay true to his roots and give up the girl or see her safely returned to her tycoon father.
Bacigalupi, P. (2010). Ship breaker. New York, NY: Little Brown.
Everything involved with the actual reading experience of this book feels true to its content: the slick, book cover with copper glinting through a sheen of oil; Nailer’s rough and “survival of the fittest” exterior coupled with his true heroic nature; and the epic journey across the Gulf Coast Region that lay in waste following years of man-made abuse. Nailer’s addict father is absolutely terrifying; Bacigalupi succeeds in convincing me that he would easily gut his own son without a second thought or ounce of remorse. The final confrontation between Nailer and his father leaves the reader breathless and slightly heartbroken as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. His conflicting emotions and motivations for rescuing “Lucky Girl” and the magnetism between the two reminds me of the remarkable relationship between Todd and Viola in Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, another post-apocalyptic, science fiction coming of age epic. Ship Breaker however raises relevant questions regarding mankind’s insatiable thirst for resources, the impact on the planet, and the greater impact on the individual.
Wysocki, B. (2011). Ship Breaker [Review of the book Ship breaker]. School Library Journal, 57(3), 78-79.
This title would make an excellent companion to other post-apocalyptic novels exploring questions of survival and individuality such as Lord of the Flies, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hersch, and After the Snow by S.D. Crockett. A book talk featuring these titles and others might help readers venture further into science fiction, dystopian, and futuristic novels.