Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I was supposed to discuss Ship Breaker today, with you all, and with Kelly, Ana, Chris and Debi. I’m afraid I had to pull out, for the same reason Chris did. I do not remember enough about the book to discuss it! Obviously there is something wrong with me, to not have liked this book so much. It won the Printz! It was nominated for the Nation Book Award! What is wrong with me!?! Yeah, we won’t go into that right now.

So instead of answering the questions that Ana and Kelly are answering, (seriously, go read their posts) I’m going to discuss a little about what the book is about (best I can remember) and talk about why this book just didn’t make much of an impression on me.

I could depend on a generic summary from GoodReads or Barnes & Noble, but in an exercise in brain power, I’m going to attempt to summarize it myself. At the least, we’ll see just how much I really DO remember.

The first thing to remember is that this is a dystopian novel and that the main character is a kid named Nailer. Nailer, by all appearances, seems like an orphan, but he does have a father. And his father is a jerk, a violently mean, drug addict of a jerk. Nailer and his relationship with his father felt very Dickensian to me, with the abuse and fear at every mention of his father. Nailer is young and has a full time job, working on a grounded oil tanker where his small size enables him to scavenge for copper wiring. His life is very day to day and he completely relies on his size to help him make ends meet. He is a scrappy little guy and when he gets a sudden lucky break, it doesn’t take him long to jump at the chance to improve his life.

Once he gets his lucky break, he goes on something of a road/train trip and other hi-jinx ensue. And I got sort of lost. I’m still not sure if the fault is with the book (not likely) or with me (much more likely). I normally enjoy road-trip sequences in books but somehow once I was taken out of Nailer’s home, it took me out of the story and I couldn’t seem to find my way back. I think, as is often the case with YA books especially, once the plot gets moving, it doesn’t let up until the finale. And if you get lost in the course of the pacing, you don’t find your way back, at least that is the way it is for me. I didn’t find my way back. I tried, I really did. I really liked Nailer. I liked his resourcefulness, his do-the-right-thing attitude, his ability to survive. I liked the way Bacigalupi portrayed his bleak version of our future, one we may have if we aren’t careful, and the equal parts of despair and hope he brought to the mix. I think, for me, and I haven’t totally thought this out but, I think I wanted more. I wanted more to Nailer’s story. I wanted more of the other character’s story. I wanted more depth, more emotion, more of a connection to, not just Nailer, but all the other characters (except Nailer’s dad, obvs). I never really connected to any other characters and I really wanted to. And that is why the book didn’t stay with me. I need an emotional connection to a book for it to work for me, and Bacigalupi just didn’t give me that, this time. I was impressed enough with the book that I really want to get my hands on The Wind-Up Girl. I hope he can give me what I want with his adult book.

These guys loved it:

Stainless Steel Droppings

One Librarian’s Book Reviews

The Book Nest 

Presenting Lenore 

It’s All About Books

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iconShip Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  • Pub. Date: May 2010
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
  • Format: Hardcover , 326pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN: 9780316056212

5 thoughts on “Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. Okay, after reading your post and Ana's post, I definitely think I fell somewhere in between the two of you in terms of how much I liked this book. But damn, Heather–have you read Ana's post yet? She blew me away by making me realize how much I let escape me. Makes me sad to realize how much more I could have enjoyed this book if I had given it the time it deserved. Also makes me wonder just how often I do that with books. 🙁

  2. I'll probably repeat a lot of what I said on Ana's post, if that is okay.

    I've been looking forward to the group of you doing this review since way back when I stumbled upon your Twitter conversation indicating that you and Chris, and maybe others, didn't have the same experience at all that I did with this book and were perhaps questioning why it had won the Printz. I was of course immediately curious as to what you guys thought of it and why it fell short for you.

    As you obviously know, I was blown away by the book, and I do think it is a very well written story. But the fact remains that no two people connect to a story in the same way and we all have experiences where intellectually we may be able to recognize the talent/skill of a particular story but it just doesn't grab us in the way it does others. I know sometimes that has to do with timing and mood, but I also believe there are stories that just don't and never will connect with us, nor we with them.

    And really that is okay. I mentioned on Ana's site that I think being open and honest about that actually opens up some interesting dialogue about the nature of story and how it does or does not connect with each individual reader.

    I've read this one, obviously, and have read a handful of Bacigalupi's short stories which are very good. I had actually purchased The Wind up Girl but ended up selling it the other day because I don't really have an interest in reading it. I think the story sounds fascinating but have also read that there are some fairly graphic sexual assault scenes in the book. I have never been comfortable with that in book or film or tv (things I partake of for entertainment) but lately I am becoming even less tolerant of them. I know bad things happen, but to me it is the rare book that actually needs stuff like that in them to tell a story. And if the story isn't about that particular subject and about how the person came to cope with it, etc. then I just don't really want to read/watch it. I don't see a lot of redeeming value to it.

  3. I am currently reading The Windup Girl, which is my first Bacigalupi. I do wonder if there is something about his style that either works or doesn't really work. I know with The Windup Girl I have been dropped into a world that is only really gradually becoming real to me.

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