Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship BreakerI really enjoy reading on my lunch break, but it turns out that I’m really bad at actually remembering to bring a book back to work once I’ve taken it home, I guess because I associate taking books to a library with returning them. Luckily I do work in a library, and so I can always grab a new book to read when I need one! I picked up this book that way, after looking for books I recalled wanting to read and finding this one waiting for me on the shelf.

I had this book on my mental list of books to read because lots of internet people were raving over it and, according to the medals on the cover, it won the Printz Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. I like award-winning things! Generally.

Unfortunately, this book and I were not meant to be the BFFs I’d hoped we’d be, which is maybe because it followed the surprisingly brilliant Code Name Verity but more likely because I just could not deal with the writing.

The story itself is pretty interesting — the characters live in a future world where our climate change has lead to a completely drowned New Orleans and New Orleans II along with much of the Gulf Coast. Because they live in a water world, fancy and amazing new boats have been invented and so there are groups of ship breakers who scavenge the old, decrepit boats that have been left behind. Our protagonist, a young kid called Nailer, is one of these ship breakers, living a life of poverty and hard work and hoping for the day when he might strike it rich like few others have done before.

So when a fancy-pants new boat wrecks itself, Nailer and his friend Pima go out to see if they can’t scavenge themselves into a rich new life. But of course there is a flaw in their plan — a rich girl still alive on the boat who convinces Nailer to help her get back to her family.

But the writing of it… there are a lot of action-adventure-type scenes that happen, and while I wouldn’t have wanted The Knife of Never Letting Go-level over-description of every single scene, I also did not want Twilight-level skipping of every dramatic event, which is what I got. Things happen either incredibly quickly or entirely off-screen, and there’s so much jumping around from one setting to the next that I often found myself having to re-read to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

I did like the characters a lot, though — Nailer might be an idiot (he’s a kid, it comes with the territory), but he’s pretty smart and thoughtful and I did very much want to know what was going to happen to him and if he was going to be okay. His friends and enemies were of course less fleshed out, but I liked that they all had their own distinct personalities even if some of them were pretty static.

When I talked about this book to my co-worker, I said that it’s probably a book I would have loved the heck out of at twelve or thirteen, and that as always I have to remember how much I loved A Wrinkle in Time and how terribly that plot holds itself together. I wish I knew how all those internet and awards people were reading this novel so that I could go back and do the same!

Recommendation: For kiddos and adults looking for a fast and easy read.

Rating: 6/10

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