Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.
2011 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
2010 National Book Award Finalist in Young People’s Literature
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Author Interview by Kate McNair from YALSA, The Hub, March 2011
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Just think about and respond thoughtfully. Please share your own group’s discussion questions and comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What kind of society developed among the Ship Breakers? Does it make sense? Does any of it strike you as not authentic? Does any of it remind of anything in society today?
2. Are the blood ties among families usually strong enough to overcome betrayals? How important is family to Richard Lopez and to Nailer? Other characters? How does Nailer feel when he is compared to his father? How is he the same or different from his father, Richard Lopez?
3. Loyalty is a virtue this society thinks about on a daily basis. Is it something we consider today? Who are the characters loyal to? Is loyalty the most important part of any relationship? What is loyalty to Tool?
4. What did you think of the blood oath the crew swore with each other? Are there
situations today that could be made better or worse by this act? What do you think of the code of ethics among crew members?
5. Sloth makes a decision not to help Nailer, going against crew culture. What do you think of her decision?
6. Where do you imagine the location of Bright Sands Beach to be? How important is the setting to this story?
7. The book names Lucky Strike, Lucky Boy, and Lucky Girl, but who is really lucky? Who is smart? Does success in life have as much to do with luck as with choices or abilities? Which is more important: being lucky or being smart?
8. Nailer is called upon to make difficult choices on a moment’s notice. Does he always make the right choice? What does he consider in making a choice? How would things change if he made another choice? What do his choices tell us about his character? Given his upbringing on Bright Sands Beach, how did Nailer end up with his value system? Who or what influenced him?
9. Nailer and Nita have very different outlooks on the world. How did they each come to them? Who’s is closer to the truth? What did Nailer teach Nita? What did Nita teach Nailer?
10. How are the conflicts in the moneyed class and those in poverty the same and/or different?
11. What is valued in this violent society where life has little meaning?
12. Why do you think Tool claims no patron? How could this have come about? As an unaligned half-man he is an anomaly, what part does he play in the story?
13. What part do the Fates, the Scavenge God, Lucky Strikes, and the Rust Saint play in the book. Can you think of other examples of superstition or religion from the book? Discuss the role that religion plays in the lives of the characters: is it a source of hope, the meaning for life, salvation, or a help in understanding of the world?