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Ship Breaker Hardcover – May 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—A fast-paced postapocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. Nailer works light crew; his dirty, dangerous job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. After a brutal hurricane passes over, Nailer and his friend Pima stumble upon the wreck of a luxurious clipper ship. It's filled with valuable goods—a "Lucky Strike" that could make them rich, if only they can find a safe way to cash it in. Amid the wreckage, a girl barely clings to life. If they help her, she tells them, she can show them a world of privilege that they have never known. But can they trust her? And if so, can they keep the girl safe from Nailer's drug-addicted father? Exciting and sometimes violent, this book will appeal to older fans of Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series (S & S) and similar action-oriented science fiction.—Hayden Bass, Seattle Public Library, WA
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* This YA debut by Bacigalupi, a rising star in adult science fiction, presents a dystopian future like so many YA sf novels. What is uncommon, though, is that although Bacigalupi's future earth is brilliantly imagined and its genesis anchored in contemporary issues, it is secondary to the memorable characters. In a world in which society has stratified, fossil fuels have been consumed, and the seas have risen and drowned coastal cities, Nailer, 17, scavenges beached tankers for scrap metals on the Gulf Coast. Every day, he tries to “make quota” and avoid his violent, drug-addicted father. After he discovers a modern clipper ship washed up on the beach, Nailer thinks his fortune is made, but then he discovers a survivor trapped in the wreckage—the “swank” daughter of a shipping-company owner. Should he slit the girl's throat and sell her for parts or take a chance and help her? 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. Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi. Grades 8-12. --Lynn Rutan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316056219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316056212
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Paolo Bacigalupi is a Hugo, Nebula, and Michael L. Printz Award Winner, as well as a National Book Award Finalist. He is also a winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and a three-time winner of the Locus Award. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and High Country News. He lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son, where he is working on a new novel.

Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults alike.
Heather R.
I've never understood the writing tool of "show, don't tell"--I felt that this book, even once the story picked up, showed too much and told too little.
Runa
The characters are very well drawn and Bacigalupi's writing is as good as he other books.
Ian Kaplan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Stefan VINE VOICE on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Nailer, a teenager, is one of many people who live in shantytowns along the US Gulf Coast, trying to eke out a dangerous living by working on disassembling crews, taking apart abandoned -- and now obsolete -- oil tankers. The work is dangerous, and taking risks is almost a necessity, because if the young workers don't make quota, there are always other starving kids ready to take their jobs. Once the children get too big to crawl down the narrow ship ducts in search of copper wiring and other recyclable metals, there aren't many options left to them... and if they're not strong enough to do the heavier work, prostitution, crime or starvation are almost inevitable.

At the start of Ship Breaker, Nailer finds an undiscovered oil reservoir in the ship he is exploring -- a lucky strike that would be sufficient to feed him and possibly provide escape from his abusive father. However, when he almost drowns in the oil, and one of his young crew mates finds him, she decides not to rescue him and leaves him to die so she can take advantage of his find. Even though Nailer manages to escape, this incident, set early in the novel, is a perfect introduction to the competing themes of "loyalty in the face of adversity" vs. "everyone for themselves" that run through Ship Breaker. After all, when Nailer finds a gorgeous clipper ship run aground during a hurricane, he faces the same choice: should he rescue the rich "swank" girl trapped inside, or let her die so the ship's salvage can make him wealthy?

YA novels have changed just a tad, haven't they? Yep, although you maybe wouldn't guess so from the paragraphs above, Ship Breaker is actually the first Young Adult novel by Paolo Bacigalupi.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Baumann VINE VOICE on June 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Ship Breaker quite a bit, with all the popcorn munching enthusiasm of watching a really good action flick. I definitely give it props for its entertainment value, and considering that his target audience can be quite fickle, I think Mr. Bacigalupi did a fabulous job with the pacing, moving the action around, and always giving us something new to see. This book would make a great film, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to hear that it's been optioned already.

What impressed me no end was how well he plunges the reader into a life of extreme poverty. As I was reading about Nailer's life, I thought, we don't need to wait for a dystopian society to see people living like this. It's real, and it's happening now, and I think any middle class teenager could benefit from thinking about how some kids have to grow up. It's shocking, and startling, and the line between the haves and the have nots is bigger than the Grand Canyon. I got all riled up, and it's my hope that other readers do too.

Entertainment value aside, I think the story falters a bit on the emotional side. I felt a connection to Nailer, but it didn't go bone deep. Considering all the terrible stuff that happens to him over the course of this book, I should have been crying for him at some point, and I never did. I'm also curious to see whether teens will embrace Nailer, who is the antithesis of the typical tall, straight-limbed, attractive hero. He's short, scrawny, and horribly scarred. He's not attractive by any conventional standard, so my inner cynic is questioning whether true young adult readers can overcome their natural inclination for superficial beauty.

Ship Breaker is another excellent entry into the ever-growing category of young adult dystopian fiction. If you've enjoyed novels like The Maze Runner by James Dashner, or Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder, then definitely put this one on your list too.
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44 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Erika (Jawas Read, Too) on April 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am reviewing an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher.

In this post-oil world stricken by global warming, it's hard not to find similarities between Ship Breaker and Bacigalupi's debut, The Windup Girl--positive similarities. As in his adult SF release, Nailer's future Earth is not pretty--in fact, it's quite desperate. Progressive rebuilding has resulted only in ruinous achievements. New Orleans has been reincarnated not once, but twice after the public realized it was prone to flooding. The worlds suffer similarly, as do the people. The privileged few oversee large corporate entities; the underprivileged majority do the worst possible jobs to get by every day (one has to wonder if this isn't happening right now). The divide between the rich and the poor is drastic.

Both are gritty dystopias. The worlds are, quite literally, falling apart. China is still a world powerhouse and humanity won't stop engineering composite lifeforms. Sea levels are rising at alarming rates, cities have been drowned. Despite the compulsion I felt to make a comparison, Ship Breaker is not entirely similar to The Windup Girl. There's something piratical that marks it distinctly from his debut and not just because there were large bodies of water and ships involved. Thievery mentality and loosely based support systems thrive along the wasted Gulf Coast. I couldn't help feeling that I'd never quite left Emiko's world, though. Things are not exactly the same--it's unfair of me to declare Ship Breaker the YA version of The Windup Girl. What is fair is to say the similarities I found in these two books are the same types of outcomes seen in a wide variety of dystopias.
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