Before our recent spring break road trip to Oklahoma, I perused the teen/YA shelves at the library for something that would appeal to the whole family. My sons are 14 and 17 now and no longer content to listen to whatever audio books Mom chooses – and often they prefer to listen to their iPods now – so I was hoping to find an audio that would engage them, as well as my husband and I, during our long hours of driving. I chose Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, a teen/YA dystopian novel that sounded action-packed; like most kids their age, they both read and enjoyed The Hunger Games, so I thought that a dystopian novel might work. Well, I still couldn’t get my youngest son to listen with us (he’s just at that age when he needs to make his own choices), but the other three of us enjoyed Ship Breaker very much.
It’s set in a post-apocalyptic time along the US’s Gulf Coast, where one huge storm after another has changed the landscape and the economy. Although there are a wealthy few in charge, most people in the Gulf Coast region have to scrape together a living by working on a crew, helping to scavenge metal and copper wiring from the huge oil tankers that have run aground there. Nailer, a teen boy, lives from one day to the next with his violent, drug-addicted father, working light crew with his group of rough peers, hoping he doesn’t grow so much that he can no longer crawl through the ships’ ductwork.
After one particularly bad storm, a wealthy clipper ship wrecks a short distance from their beach, and Nailer and a crewmate, Pima, find it before anyone else notices it. The ship is filled with more wealth than they have ever seen or heard of – including silver platters and gold jewelry – but as they are scavenging whatever they can carry, they discover a girl about their own age who is barely alive. Now they have a problem: do they turn the girl over to the adults and allow the girl herself to be sold for her parts or try to hide her so they can collect a ransom when her family comes looking for her?
It’s a dark, gritty story populated by coarse but likeable characters faced with often unthinkable ethical dilemmas. My husband, son, and I really enjoyed the audio which captures the tone of the desperate time and place. The story was fast-paced and exciting and kept our interest over the long hours in the car!
352 pages, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers