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 This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss.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've been wanting to read this book for a long time. I've felt like I should read this book for a long time. And of course, I've had this book on my shelf for a long time. I finally got around to reading it and I thought it was really good. It's a post apocalyptic/dystopian book set in the future where there are "half-men" that are genetically engineered with part tiger, part dog, part man genes and bred to be loyal to their "patrons" so that they die when their "patrons" die. And not only are they loyal, they are vicious and fast.
Children are used to crawl through pipes to scrap copper wire on the wrecks of old oil tankers and purposely starve themselves so they stay small enough to fit in the pipes for as long as possible. They take blood oaths to be on their crews and if they betray their crew, their crew tattos are slashed and they are set adrift on the beaches to fend for themselves.
The novel had a lot of action in it but was more a test of loyalty and faith at every choice. Nailer didn't have to think about himself, but also about his fallback family and Nita every time he made a choice. And he had to navigate the mind of his drug laden drunken father as he threatened Nailer's chance at escape and his family. I read this book in one night and felt like I really got to know Nailer. I knew what choice he'd make before he made it because he set the tone early on in the novel. But I didn't know Nita at all. At times she was spoiled and stand offish. At others she rolled up her sleeves and dug in with the rest of them. I actually didn't trust her and didn't believe her story. I didn't really get to know her at all. I would have liked to have seen chapters told from her point of view. I felt all of Nailer's emotions and fears and hopes as I read along experiencing the adventure of his choice with him. It was a great story I'd just like to have gotten into the minds of the other characters. But it was definitely a thrilling read and had some breath holding moments to make it a book worthy of the Printz Award bestowed upon it.