The Wreckers, by Iain Lawrence, was published in 1998 by Delacorte.
There was once a village bred by evil. On the barren coast of Cornwall lived a community of people who prayed for shipwrecks, who lured storm-tossed ships to crash upon the sharp rocks of their shore. They fed and clothed themselves with the loot salvaged from the wreckage; dead sailors’ tools and trinkets became decorations for their homes. Most never questioned their murderous way of life. Then upon that pirates’ shore crashed the ship the Isle of Skye. And the youngest of its crew members, fourteen-year-old John Spencer, survived the wreck. But would he escape the wreckers?
I think I would have enjoyed The Wreckers more if things had happened more slowly and made more sense. For me, there came a point in every chapter where I felt that there needed to be several more sentences of explanation. Things happened very quickly and I ended up feeling lost and had to scramble to catch up.
For example, there’s a point in the book where John is standing by his pony in the street when he hears a cart that signals Stumps is coming. There’s a paragraph about how he’s trying to get his pony’s reins untied but he fails and then he turns and runs for some reason. And Stumps, despite being some distance away still, manages to both catch up to and trap him, although there is no discernible reason for him to even want to chase after John. A couple of sentences with some sort of reminder or reason for why Stumps would want to chase John, despite the fact that John is just standing in the street doing nothing, would have been nice, as well as some explanation why John even wasted time on the pony’s reins and didn’t just run the moment he heard the cart coming.
So, basically, I found the plot confusing (the sparse description certainly didn’t help) and a lot of the character’s actions made no sense to me. John is at once both too trusting and too untrusting—he’ll think suspiciously of one character and then the next moment he’s accepting everything that character says—and many of the other character’s motives and personalities were undermined by the quick-slow-quick pacing. The Wreckers does have a nice Treasure Island feel to it and it’s cool to read the author’s note at the end about the history behind wreckers, but that’s about all that’s great about it.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence, death, some scary images.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
“A lot of men drownded that night,” said Mary. “And since then my uncle’s made sure that they never again used the lights.”
“But they do,” I said.
“Oh, no,” she said. “They don’t.”
“I saw them.” I turned to her, almost pleading. “I saw them from the ship.”
“It’s quite impossible, John. You must have seen stars, or maybe—”
“I saw the ponies on the cliff. They had lanterns on their backs.”