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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this National Book Award Finalist is set in a dark futuristic world. It is full of fast-paced adventure and quite a lot of violence (gory knife fights and bloody battles in which throats are cut, eyes gouged, and so on). The hero survives with wit and an ability to make ethical choices. This book is a good jumping off point for a discussion of the world's
dependence on oil and unfair labor practices, as well as why dystopian novels are so popular -- and what they can teach us.
Challenging ideas of comfort
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What's the Story?
The story takes place somewhere along the Gulf of Mexico, sometime in the future. The hero, Nailer, lives a gritty, desperate life scavenging copper wire from the ducts of beached oil tankers while dreaming of sailing away on one of the high-tech clipper ships that are bound for higher seas and a better world. Much like a character from Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist, Nailer finds safety and survival by being part of a crew of scavengers, but he has to make quota each day to keep his place. On top of that, his father is a mean, raging abuser of alcohol and crystal slide, all of which does not make his life any easier. When Nailer stumbles upon a beached clipper ship and its lone survivor, a swank girl from one of the wealthiest trading families, he must make a string of hard choices.
Is It Any Good?
From the first page to the last, one adventure after another will keep readers turning pages. Swash-buckling evil characters seem to be in charge, and around
every turn. Just as no escape seems possible, the heroes find a way. Just as they nearly break away, they are caught again and again.
But beyond the adventure, this book will challenge teens to mull over the bleak world of the ship breakers: How did their society come about? How can we avoid this fictional world becoming a reality? Readers will appreciate the difficult ethical choices the heroes, especially Nailer, struggle with -- and be relieved that the good ultimately manage to come out on top.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about dystopian novels. Why are these sorts of novels popular right now -- like the Hunger Games series? Why is it important to read books about our possible futures?
This book was a finalist for the National Book Award. Do you think it deserved this prize? Have you read any of the other books on this year's list, like Mockingbird or One Crazy Summer?
- Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 1, 2010
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
Our Editors Recommend
Powerful adventure about dumpsite kids a true treasure.
Unwind: Unwind Dystology, Book 1
Shocking sci-fi gives teens plenty to get wound up about.
Satire with a nice bite -- for mature teens.
The Hunger Games, Book 1
Exciting, provocative tale of lethal reality show.
Exciting, provocative dystopian novel will make teens think.
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