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Ship Breaker Hardcover – May 1, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 304 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Ship Breaker Series

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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: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1st 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 (304 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like some other reviewers, I LOVED this author in "Windup Girl" and "Pump Six and Other Stories." I was willing to make allowances for Ship Breaker, given that it is marketed to teens. But, in the end, I wouldn't give Ship Breaker to my own teens, as I did with Pump Six. I suspect that this extremely talented author suffered from may too much editing and peer input on this book. This approach may produce awards or near-awards (National Book award "Finalist"), but it's a killer for real quality.

Some specifics? How about this explanation of why the bad guys are bad, supposedly delivered by a teen girl: "It's tar sands development and refining. A way to make burnable fuel, a crude oil replacement. The valuation has gone up, because of carbon production limits. [They] have been refining tar sands in our northern holdings and secretly using... clippers to ship it over the pole to China ... avoiding taxation because of territory disputes in the Arctic." A second character explains: "It's black market fuel,... Banned by convention if not in fact." (page 193).

These lines go wrong just about every way possible. The language does not sound anything close to what a teenage girl would say. The language does sound like a certain sort of adult -- the sort who thinks he sounds smarter if he says "valuation" instead of value, or if he strings together nouns or words pretending to be nouns in a series ("tar sands development and refining"; "carbon production limits"). And how about the substance? The story is set in a world that has broken down, and the worst the bad guys can do is develop a source of oil while "avoiding taxation" and violating "convention"? I am reminded of the movie Mighty Ducks 3 (or was it 2?).
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