Review: 'Ship Breaker,' a post-apocalyptic thriller for young adults, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


By Paolo Bacigalupi

Little, Brown, $17.99. Ages 12 and up

In the post-apocalyptic future of Paolo Bacigalupi's "Ship Breaker," the world is sharply divided into "rust rats" and "swanks." Nailer, a scavenger of beached tankers, is one of the former. His bleak life takes a turn, though, when he discovers a storm-wrecked sailing vessel and rescues the lone survivor: a pretty, extremely wealthy girl. When he flees with Nita to a squalid, largely submerged New Orleans, Nailer enrages his brutal father, who had planned to keep the girl's promised reward for himself. A finalist for this year's National Book Award, this gritty, tautly paced novel will rivet readers eager to learn both the fate of the young ship breaker and the reason for the world's grim collapse. Memorable characters add pith and spirit, including gutsy Nita and a "half-man" named Tool, who bucks the servitude for which he was genetically engineered.

-Mary Quattlebaum

© 2010 The Washington Post Company