In the current hype of dystopian young adult fantasies, acclaimed writer Paolo Bacigalupi joins the fray with his politically pointed Ship Breaker.
Ship Breaker tells the story of Nailer, a teenager who works as light crew, climbing through the catacombs of the old oil ships collecting whatever metal that hasn’t been stripped down yet. Life is hard for Nailer and his crew and has few rays of hope penetrating his world.
That is until he meets Lucky Girl. She is the only survivor of a massive ship wreck and also happens to be the daughter of the president of an enormous shipping company. Now Nailer and Lucky Girl have to run to find someone still loyal to her father, as her uncle and Nailer’s father hunt them down, hoping to find them and kill them. But with time running out and Nailer’s father closing in, the question remains. Will they survive?
I had heard a lot about Paolo Bacigalupi from his critically acclaimed Windup Girl, and so was more than a little excited to get my hands on his young adult novel Ship Breaker. I expected it to be exciting, engaging, and full of action.
It lived up to its expectations and more.
Ship Breaker is engaging from the very start. As Nailer is forced into life or death decisions and is left for dead by one of his own crew in the very first pages. You really get a sense of the character through his interactions and situations he’s thrust into in these early on experiences and it is through this sense that readers and critics alike will learn to love Bacigalupi’s teenage protagonist. He is sharp, strong, and just enough of an underdog type character to make him endearing.
That said not all the characters are as well developed as Nailer. Pima, her mother, and Lucky Girl, while important to the story did not even come close to receiving the level of development Nailer received, making them slightly two dimensional and weaker characters.
Ship Breaker is well written and pushes a strong environmental message without over pushing it. Because of this and its strong protagonist this story is a great read that fans of dystopian futures should flock to.