A Printz of a Book

Award season is upon us, and no, not the Golden Globes. Every year the American Library Association and its various divisions give awards to the best of the best of the previous year. This year’s winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature is Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

It’s a futuristic book set on a devastated Gulf Coast – maybe not that far in the future – near New Orleans, which has been demolished by hurricanes the locals call “city-killers.” These storms have caused a lot of ships to become nothing more than salvage. Stripping tankers and cargo strips of their copper and iron is the main source of income for the impoverished citizens, and our hero Nailer is on the light crew, going into the most dangerous parts to salvage strands of copper wire. After a particularly bad city-killer, he and his friend Pima find their own salvage, but it comes with an injured swank, a rich girl from up north. Nailer has to decide if the girl is his ticket out, and if that means holding her for ransom or trying to escape with her.

Ship Breaker is no light read, and at times, downright depressing. These characters have hard lives and have to make hard choices. The only thing they have is each other, and sometimes not even that. Still, it’s an excellent book that tugs at your heartstrings, and you can’t help but root for Nailer to make it to a better life.

– Heather Botelho, South Branch Library


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