Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.
I ordered this book because I saw it on so many award lists (Andre Norton Award, Michael L. Printz Award) and I wondered what all the fuss was about. To be honest, the book blurb kept me away for quite some time. It just seemed stale and formulaic, like someone was trying to cash in on the dystopian trend and didn't quite know how to go about it. I'm glad I finally gave in, though, because this book was excellent and nothing like the impression the blurb gave me. Lucky is a great character, believable as a rich girl in her situation, and her situation is a great plot twist that sets her up to be not only rich and privileged, but also intelligent and competent in her situation. Nailer is a great foil to her and a unique voice, providing us with insight into how unique her “ordinary” (to the reader) life is and helping to illustrate how his world has changed from ours. The plot follows logically, and although it seems that everyone is motivated by the same thing (money) it doesn’t seem contrived to me because money and survival is a constant obsession with people living constantly on the brink of not having any to survive on. Although Bacigalupi has written another book in this world, I haven’t read it and I didn’t feel that it was necessary to understand what was going on, although I am tempted to find it now that we’ve been introduced. In all, this was a very good book and I will be looking for more work by the author in the future.