Nailer is a teenager working on light crew as a ship breaker. That is, he and other children--small enough to wriggle through ducts on old wrecked ships--scavenge through huge, ancient ships to get copper wiring, anything useful. He lives with his father, his father who is an amphetamine addict who beats Nailer on a whim, and they're dead, dirt poor. Then a city killer comes along--a hurricane stronger than anything we've ever seen, the kind that destroys entire cities and makes them into nothing more than scavenge--and wrecks a clipper ship, one that Nailer and his best friend Pima come along first, one full of silver, of food, of riches like Nailer's never even dreamed of. Everyone on board is dead except for a single girl, a swank girl, with gold on her fingers that could make Nailer rich for the rest of his days; he thinks about killing her. He wants to--the clipper's not scavenge if her owner's alive, and it could change his life, Pima's life. Give them life, really, because they're both growing too big for light crew, and they'll never be big enough for heavy crew, and that means...they'll starve. They'll die.
It's a dark book, with more cruelty, poverty, death than you can stand. Did I mention, it's set in the United States? It's a future world where the oil's run out and finding a pocket of it in one of the old, rust-eaten ancient ships from the Accelerated Age (that's now, I think) can set you up for life, and where sea level's risen to the tops of skyscrapers, leaving them as teeth in the ocean. It moves fast, Nailer's flight, Nailer's fear, Nailer's desperation driving him from bad situation to bad situation, and there's violence and hate and just plain evil. But there's also hope. Nailer's not a bad kid, even if he should be, even if it'd be smarter to be, and there's a light in him that's worth chasing through the shadows of this world.
I listened to it, as a car book, and Joshua Swanson was the perfect narrator. Not great at accents, I think, but it didn't matter that they were a little off because...well, no one was from where they lived, and their accents might well have been mish-mash. But he read with a lot of feeling, each of the characters a distinct voice, and he made an amazing Nailer. A great listen.