Ship Breaker - by Paolo Bacigalupi
Ship Breaker

"Trust me, this is definitely something worth reading."


"I'm a chess piece. A pawn,' she said. 'I can be sacrificed, but I cannot be captured. To be captured would be the end of the game." –Lucky Girl. Ship Breaker is a book written by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is his debut young adult novel.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The way that Bacigalupi made this whole alternate timeline of the US was fascinating. I admit when I first heard that this book was set in a post-apocalyptic-like scenario I sarcastically said to myself ‘how original?'. But now after reading this book I can see that no matter how exhausted a certain theme is, the imagination of individuals can help bring life back to these. The protagonist of the book is a teenage boy named Nailer Lopez.

The way that Bacigalupi develops Nailer is very archetypal. He comes from humble roots, hasn't been out much, gets presented with an opportunity to change his life and takes it. Bacigalupi does a great job from turning Nailer from a lowly daytime laborer to a hero. He also has his friend Pima who stays with him for much of his journey and gives him advice and presents him with choices that ultimately lead him to who he becomes. Many have praised this book as to how the world might really end up if we continue this path that we are currently going down.

In the Gulf Coast there are many downed oil tankers that just sit in the water rusting and decaying. It is the job of the scavenge crews to take all reusable and useful items and recycle it so that they can be sold to big companies and they can make their money. Nailer works on light crew, a group of scavengers who go after things that are easily stripped of without tools. Light crew is made up of children who are small enough to get into the nooks and crannies of these abandoned, sunken, large oil tankers, mainly through the air ducts. He is the one who specifically goes into the said air ducts and strips the vents for copper wire. The children in light crew form a friendship which they describe as "crew" and when you are a part of this crew, you become blood brothers and sisters. And early on in the novel we learn just how serious breaking the bond of crew is. And even in this lawless place where people do not care for much, people will not want to be associated with you if you break the bonds of crew.

One day there is a storm and everything is helter skelter. Nailer is running to Pima and tries to help her not lose everything she owns in the ensuing storm. People are everywhere trying and the whole coastline is completely whack. After the storm, no one could get back to work. So because of this, Pima and Nailer decide to walk the coastline in search of any good scavenge and they walked past the large oil tankers and saw nothing. They continued to walk and eventually they saw a nice looking clipper, he had only seen this kind of clipper in pictures and from far away while on the docks. It was fresh and new and Pima and Nailer knew that this could be their way to escape their current lives and move on to something much better than what they have. They get onto the ship and are left speechless at the amount of wealth on the ship and no that not even a fraction of what is on this ship could get them out of this hell hole that they lived in. If you want to know what happens next, read the book. Trust me, this is definitely something worth reading.



"The author uses realistic details to make the story seem it might have happened."


Recently, authors of teen novels have attempted to attract as much attention as book series such as Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling and The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Paolo Bacigalupi is an example of this through his book, Ship Breaker. Very similar to The Hunger Games, Paolo begins the novel with a poor teen in a desperate situation, who performs a heroic and brave act that puts others over him. However, the similarity of the plotline of the two books just about ends here.

The hero, Nailer, is a poor boy who scavenges for copper in old wrecked ships in a future society off the coast on the Gulf of Mexico. One day on the job, he almost dies in one of these, but he luckily survives. A hurricane brings disaster, but for Nailer, it brings a chance for a better life. He has to make a decision that could cost him his own life.

Bacigalupi incorporates conflicts that captivate the reader's attention and make him want to know what happens next. There was even suspense in the first few chapters, where the hero, Nailer, almost dies but cleverly finds a way out of his near impossible predicament. When I was reading, the author described each setting so realistically that I could picture each situation in my mind, which gave the book a great advantage over others like it. There is a reason these new novels are popular with teens, and it isn't chance; they appeal to the reader.

Bacigalupi's style of writing is intriguing - suspenseful but also funny at the same time. Much of Ship Breaker's success is due to its humor – without which, it would have been borderline depressing. One of my few criticisms is that some of the characters were lacking in development, but from reading the excerpt from the first two chapters of the second book in the series, some may have their full identities revealed in later books. Still, I didn't see Nailer, the book's main character being as developed as he could have been.

I also did enjoy how the storyline progressed. It wasn't long and drawn out, which kept me interested throughout the book. Teens seem to have short attention spans, which Bacigalupi realizes and balances with his faster-occurring plotline. The plotline was dramatic with lots of fast action that would easily translate into a movie, which I would for sure go and see. Paolo creates a futuristic society that's easy to picture in the mind. When I was reading, I wanted to learn more about this society in which his fictional characters lived. It was very reminiscent of The Hunger Games. The conflict of the book was very interesting, and it would not have been an easy decision to make. (I'm being vague so I don't spoil the book). I'm looking forward to reading his next book in the series to see what he throws in as the conflict.

Most of the dialogue was clear, but a few times, I had to re-read because I did not understand it the first time. A noticeable aspect of Paolo's writing was that he included much foul language in the characters' dialogue. This is obviously not realistic, because teenagers never use bad language! Ok, that was a lie; his writing made it seem like an actual conversation between two teens. Overall, Bacigalupi's greatest success was his effective use of realistic details to make the story seem like it actually might have happened.

   - Scott B.



"a sports book with a mystery"


All together, I believe Payback Time was a very moving and interesting book. Deuker had me guessing on what was going to happen next. His writing style was very good and flowing; he kept the story moving and didn't have any boring parts. The book had many funny scenes but was mostly serious as a whole. Students don't expect sports books to have a mystery and yet include a lot of information on the main sport in the book.

Payback Time is easy to follow, and you feel as though you are in the book. When protagonist Mitch True finds out that he isn't going to be the editor of his school's paper, he's extremely disappointed. Sadly enough, he has been assigned the sports section of the newspaper.

Mitch is starting the school year by writing stories about the varsity football season. He is on the verge of finding his first real story for the paper if he can get the star defensive player, Angel Marichal, to talk. He also wants Coach McNulty to explain why he never plays Angel with his obvious talent. Mitch and his partner Kimi discover they just might be sitting on a scandal that would not only shock Washington High school athletics, get Coach McNulty fired, and lose them all sorts of friends, but probably land Mitch on ESPN for his reporting.

At the beginning, Mitch True is very overweight student, but as the story progresses, he realizes his problem and puts a stop to it. The subplot of the book is the Mitch's relationship with the photographer of the school newspaper, Kimi. They both team up to find out the story behind Angel Marichal.

There are many different conflicts throughout the book. The main conflict is between Mitch and Coach McNulty when he will not let him interview Angel. When I finished reading the book, I was stunned by how everything intertwined from the beginning to the end. Any student interested in sports, especially football, would find this book very interesting. The football action is written in a thrilling and vivid manner, but the mystery behind Angel's past is almost more engaging. Even unenthusiastic readers will struggle to put this fascinating sports mystery down.

   - Jason S.



"One of the most interesting and on-my-toes books I've ever read."


Probably one of the most interesting and on-my-toes books I've ever read was Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi did a really good job in making all of the characters different and creating the unique world. This book for me was a book that I could sit down and read it till I would fall asleep. One day I was reading it and I read it so long that I fell asleep with the book in my hand; I read it for like four hours. I would think of this book as a male book; I'm not saying girls couldn't read this, but it is more of a male book. If you have ever seen the movie Slum Dog Millionaire, it kind of resembles the same plot and character; in Slum dog Millionaire the little kid grew up from nothing and basically started all by himself and it was the same as Nailer, who had only his mom because his dad was abusive and didn't care what Nailer did. It kind of relates to me because I did not grow up from much and I had to work and deal with a lot of hard stuff to get through life. This story could have a moral to it and if it did, I think it would to make a decision and stick to it because no matter which choice you choose, you made it and can't go back and change it.

In this story the main character Nailer spends his life working on broken and abandoned crew ships, stripping them of all their raw materials that can be useful for other things. One day he finds a large clipper that has only one survivor--a beautiful young girl. Suddenly Nailer has to make the decision to break the ship down for all its worth and become rich, or save the girls' life.

The time of this book was set about one-hundred years from now when the ice caps have melted and the sea levels have risen in New Orleans. The plot of this story was that Nailer had one chance to save his existence in the world. One theme that this novel explores pretty well is how some people lose their sense of humanity in the face of adversity. He had to go through tons of obstacles were at some times seen as impossible. He did not have really anyone to lean on or go to for help or advice. He had his mom and his crew boss Pima. His dad doesn't care about him, and his crew will stab him in the back if it means rewards for them.

Throughout the story Nailer is always caught between the smart decisions and doing what is right. "If you're just smart or just lucky, it's not worth a copper yard. You got to have both, or you're just like Sloth down at those bonfires, begging for someone to find a use for you." I liked how the author's style was very fast-paced and action packed. Also I liked how the author didn't try to make every character the same and have the same ideas, he made them have their own character and own style of how they did things.

   - Scott U.