Ship Breaker

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This article is about the 2010 book. For the practice of breaking up ships for recycling, see Ship breaking.
Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker
Hardcover edition
Author Paolo Bacigalupi
Cover artist Neil Swaab
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult, survival
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date
May 1, 2010
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 326 pp.
ISBN 978-0-316-05621-2
OCLC 449282270
Preceded by The Windup Girl
Followed by Drowned Cities

Ship Breaker is a 2010 young adult novel by Paolo Bacigalupi set in a dystopian future. It was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and won the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award[1][2] and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book.[3] It was also a nominee for the 2010 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy and was listed on American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association list: 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list.[4]


In a dystopian future, the polar ice caps have melted and New Orleans is buried underwater. On the Gulf Coast nearby, as humanity has reverted to survival mode, a small economy has grown from the scavenging of washed up oil tankers. Nailer is the fifteen year old son of a violent father and one of these scavengers. He rescues Nita, the stranded daughter of a wealthy merchant, and decides to help her try to contact her father's people. Unfortunately, this infuriates several parties, including Nailer's father, the local power brokers, and Nita's father's enemies...


Major Characters[edit]

  • Nailer: Main character. Teenage ship scavenger who works on the "light crew". His only living blood relative is his abusive father.
  • Richard Lopez: Nailer's evil father and leader of a scavenge band.
  • Pima: Nailer's close friend. She is head of a section of the "light crew".
  • Sadna: Pima's mother. A veteran scavenger who works on the "heavy crew".
  • Nita: The sole survivor of a shipwreck and the daughter of a global shipping family.
  • Tool: A "half-man" and a member of Richard Lopez's crew who helps Nailer.
  • Captain Candless: Captain of the Dauntless ship.
  • Reynolds: Midshipman of the Dauntless and Captain Candless' first mate.

Minor Characters[edit]

  • Sloth: A member of Nailer's "light crew" who is kicked out after leaving him for dead in an oil tanker.
  • Bapi: Supervisor of the ship breaking "light crew," Bapi is Nailer and Pima's boss, and is not known for his kindness or tolerance.
  • Moby: A guard and cronie of Richard Lopez.
  • Reni: A train jumping goon who was chopped to pieces by a wheel while he tried to jump a train drunk.
  • Lucky Strike: Former salvage worker who struck oil and became rich. A sharp, benevolent wheeler-dealer with hands in everything from antibiotics to crystal slide.
  • Mr. Marn: The captain of the Ray, an enemy ship.
  • Trimble: A half-man who works for Captain Candless.
  • Blue Eyes: Member of Richard Lopez's crew, a hard stringy woman devoted to the Life Cult.
  • Patel: The family name of a wealthy business mogul who profits from ship breakers. Lucky Girl claims to be related to them.
  • Nathaniel Pyce: Nita's treacherous "business-marriage uncle," whose people are pursuing her to gain control of the family business empire.


Preceded by
Going Bovine
Michael L. Printz Award Winner
Succeeded by
Where Things Come Back