So, it’s nearly midnight. I’ve been staring at my screen, trying to figure out how I’m going to write this review for the Bookanistas.
The thing is, I have no idea if I can do a review for SHIP BREAKER that accurately gets across the way I feel about it. Because it’s just. too. good. As cool as the synopsis of SHIP BREAKER is, the even cooler stuff is nowhere to be seen in the book’s summary. And to talk about it would spoil things for those that haven’t read it. Quite a dilemma, that.
But I shall give it my best shot. Hang tight, people. And if I squeal and go all fangurl on you, well, you’ve been warned.
SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi
Goodreads description: Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.
Okay. Yes, this book is dark, sometimes tragic, sometimes take-your-breath-away gritty. The world in which SHIP BREAKER takes place is probably one of the most desolate, most depressing settings known to YA imagination. SHIP BREAKER defines dystopia. And there are moments of tension that had my heart thumping so badly I nearly put the book down. Nearly. But the descriptions? Freaking gorgeous. You will never know a more vivid setting. And the language? The meaning granted to every line? I can tell you that more than once I sighed from the beauty. But in all my reviews (because I only review books I love), I try to understand why I really LOVE a book—what has MADE that book. And this one was tough.
So, I got to thinking about what made HARRY POTTER for me. I know, we’re talking about SHIP BREAKER, but just bear with me a moment. Aside from the really cool fantasy, the magic, and the fabulous British culture that always gets Americans drooling, what made HARRY POTTER such a brilliant book was the fact that no one ever expected Harry to be a hero. He was this scrawny, geeky little thing. The most unlikely of heroes, right? Well, I LOVE that. Like love love love that. When it works. And let me tell you, it works in SHIP BREAKER.
Nailer is this shrimpy little guy covered in labor tattoos and scars, illiterate, dirty, and loyal only as far as he needs to be. All he cares about is survival. And when survival is the only goal, things like manners, loyalty, and love are merely…relative. But then something life changing happens to him, and without even realizing it, he begins to question things he always knew as facts. Still. Nobody expects anything more from him than his continued labor stripping copper from wrecked ships on the ironically named Bright Sandy Beach until he can’t physically do it any more (and the options after that are dismal). But the Fates have their way with Nailer, taking him on a wild, scary, gripping adventure where he’s thrown into situations that test his mettle and force him to choose what is right, wrong, and somewhere in between; and in those choices, he knows he will either be killed or reborn. And a rebirth will require him to find an inner strength and core of ethics that defy his genetics (if his drunken, abusive father is anything to go by).
But I won’t tell you the whole plot. You should know, however, even though there’s a girl involved, she’s not the focus. It’s a story of Nailer’s growth—his triumphs and failures and his discovery of self. Yet SHIP BREAKER does more than just tell a story. It questions what it is to be human, to have free will, and to rise above destiny or genetics; it asks readers to consider the true cost of taking—and giving—life; and above all, SHIP BREAKER illustrates the power of choice granted to all human beings, no matter one’s position in life. And in that doubtful space that we inhabit as human beings, it makes us consider what a really “good” choice is. Is it one that leads to survival? Or one in which ethics prevail, no matter the cost?
Now go get SHIP BREAKER, please (It is available). I’m dying to talk about it with someone. There’re these really cool [BLEEP] that [BLEEPED] which had my jaw dropping. So frigging original.
Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are recommending today!
- Lisa and Laura Roecker and Myra McEntire spreads some love for SELLING HOPE
- Elana Johnson is nuts about NIGHTSHADE
- Christine Fonseca swoons over SIREN
- Shelli Johannes-Wells is over the moon about THE ORACLE TO REBOUNDS and her fab giveaway.
- Shannon Messenger marvels over MUSEUM OF THEIVES (plus she's having another epic giveaway).
- Megan Miranda is in love with I AM THE MESSENGER