Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ship Breaker

Bacigalupi, Paolo. 2010. SHIP BREAKER. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316056212 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]

This post-apocalyptic novel set along the American gulf coast is replete with non-stop action in a realistic setting. Fossil fuels are rare, public services nonexistent along the Gulf of Mexico, and mankind fights to survive. Struggling to live, 17 year old Nailer is small enough to seek out the precious copper from grounded oil tankers. Yet for Nailer, danger is a constant between his scavenging and living with his violent, drug-addicted father. When a hurricane leaves behind a stranded yacht, Nailer hopes for a rich salvage, until he discovers a lone survivor. Torn between the need to survive and his moral beliefs, Nailer begins to question everything he has taken for granted. Does he help her find her family? Sell her for body parts? Battling his father and political adversaries, Nailer begins to look for a future and ultimately proves that despite his primitive life, he is a young man of honor.

Bacigalupi’s work is superb among dystopian novels with its multi-layered characters and contemporary issues that make the events and actions realistic. This riveting narrative will capture the imagination of young adult readers leaving them wanting to know, “What happens next?” More importantly, it will leave the reader questioning what is currently taken for granted.

This novel is ideal for bringing up the issues of conserving natural resources as well as discussing issues found in developing countries today: inadequate medical care, food, safety, and more. This story would also be an excellent addition to a detailed analysis of dystopian novels.

Other dystopian novels that deal with contemporary issues:
Goodman, Allegra. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND. ISBN 1595141952
Butler, Octavia E. PARABLE OF THE SOWER. ISBN 9780446675505

By Christine J. Rayl

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