Book Thoughts: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.…

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

(**I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a thoughtful review.)

Ship Breaker introduces Nailer, a young teen whose job is to scavenge parts of ships. The first page quickly sets the story in motion with an interesting scene of the protagonist, Nailer, clambering through a ship in the dark, pulling out parts of worth. I was immediately engrossed in the story, curious as to why the boy was doing what he was.

Although luck is a reoccurring theme, the novel’s main focus is survival of the fittest. Many people are nicknamed out of their believed luck, but it is Nailer’s morals and intelligence that drive him forward. The protagonist’s exact age is never noted which made the novel more enjoyable for me. I’ve noticed that I’m not able to connect as much with characters younger than myself and not knowing Nailer’s age allowed me to connect with the novel. Even though it is understood that he is younger than sixteen, the voice Bacigalupi creates has a mature tone to it. This book is in the YA genre, but I think the writing and storyline will entertain audiences of many different ages.

I really liked and understood Nailer. He is classed stereotypically because of his work and difficult life and at times people assume they know what he will do or what his motives are. Many labels are put on different characters in this novel, but almost all are broken. I think that addressing never-ending issues, like stereotyping, in books helps more and more people understand it. The more awareness a subject has, the more it is understood and hopefully not practiced.

Even though I enjoyed Nailer, I found Nita to be very boring. The protagonist constantly has vacillating thoughts and judgments and conflicting emotions whereas Nita’s character is very flat. Yes, she defies her stereotype of a stuck-up, lazy rich girl and argues with other characters. There wasn’t a part where her actions or words stuck out to me, which is a disappointment because I expected her to make an impact on me due to her importance to the story and Nailer’s interest in her.

I also realized how carefully planned the details in this novel are. The novel makes a full circle, starting at a certain place in the beginning and ending at the same place. I know “coming full circle” can be taken negatively in some situations, but this is the opposite; I found it really interesting and thought-provoking that Nailer ended where he had started as a completely different person. In addition to that, each scene is described in detail so I found it fairly easy to picture what was happening.

Ship Breaker is a pleasant read. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a novel without a romance-centric story, or who enjoys adventure. Check it out, you never know… (:

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