by Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Nailer lives amongst the ruins and shanties of the Gulf Coast, eking out a living on the light crew that scavenges the wrecks of old oil tankers. The work is dangerous... but so is his drug-addicted father. Life seems bleak, and sometimes only the loyalty of Nailer's friends -- his crew -- means he'll live to see another day.
After a massive hurricane, Nailer comes across the wreckage of a pristine clipper ship. Thinking to claim the salvage for himself, he investigates, only to find that there is a survivor... and she could very well change his life forever.
This book's been sitting in my TBR pile for ages. I wish I had known how good it really was; I would have read it sooner!
This is a great example of YA dystopian fiction, made all the more unnerving because our world could so easily become Nailer's. In the world of Ship Breaker, we see what might happen after the economic rise of China, the melting of the polar ice caps, unfettered genetic research, and a further widening of the gap between rich and poor. Category 6 hurricanes are common enough to have a name ("city killers") and people have finally given up on New Orleans, a city that can't exist in a world of rising sea levels. All these details help drive the plot forward and make Nailer's situation more plausible.
I thought the characters were all very interesting and well developed. Nailer is appealing as a main character; you want him to survive and succeed in that rough world of his. His father is just the opposite... but he's a great villain. The members of Nailer's surrogate family -- his crew -- are all unique and interesting in their own right.
Despite lots of details, the pace is good and holds the reader's interest. I don't think I ever got bored reading this one. It didn't lag, and I wanted to find out what happened next. My only complaint (and it's a small one) was that the ending seemed to come very quickly, and it was a bit open; I don't know if there are sequels planned or if this is a stand-alone title. I would not hesitate to pick up another book about Nailer and his world, though.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's one of the best YA dystopian novels I've read.
Overall: 4.86 out of 5