Review: Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've really enjoyed everything I have ready from Bacigalupi. He has a unique way of painting a poisoned future that you can believe is possible. Ship Breaker is the story of Nailer, a young boy working salvage on a beach near where New Orleans once stood. He is tormented by an abusive father and struggles just to make it through each day. Nailer is surrounded by inescapable poverty, yet just on the horizon he sees the beautiful ships of the wealthy elite who control, or ignore, his ship breaking outfit. Presented with a strange twist of luck, Nailer must make some very difficult choices between saving a life or making his own life easier.

This is categorized as a YA book. Most YA books are categorized as such because they are providing blunt exposition of a particular issue, like fitting in during your teen years, or dealing with early romance. Ship Breaker takes on a much more difficult topic: invisible privilege. Nailer is a member of an extremely poor underclass. When the privileged and wealthy are forced to recognize him, they are shocked to find that Nailer lacks privileges that they take for granted. Literacy, food, education, current events....all of these are unreliable if available at all to Nailer. From my own experience I know that it wasn't until I was late into my 20's that I became truly aware of the extent of invisible privilege and how it can work to prevent the poor from escaping poverty. Exposing youth to this concept could do a great deal of good.

I listened to the Audible audio book version of this story, which was available from my library. The narrator does a fantastic job of lending a unique voice to each character. Even without prompts I was easily able to tell which character was speaking. The only voices I struggled with were the slight difference between his Irish and Indian accents, but these characters were rarely in the same scene together.

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Jade Mason