THE WATER WARS
Received from publisher for review
The world is shaped differently now. New borders exist between new countries made up of previously independent states, and new rules exist to regulate and control what's left of the world's almost non-existent drinkable water supply.
For Vera, this is simply life as she knows it, but when she meets Kai her entire world view shifts. He claims there's fresh water left and he can find it. And then just like that he's gone, leaving behind a ransacked apartment and little else for Vera and her brother Will to help them understand what happened to him.
Convinced he's been kidnapped for his water knowledge, Vera and Will set out in search of him but instead find themselves in the middle of a battle for power, struggling to live long enough to find their friend and the boy who just might be capable of saving them all.
Water Wars presents us with a rather bleak future, one we can’t really say we’re overly shocked to see laid out before us given the predictions of many a current environmentalist, and one where guilt is a tangible entity on our shoulders as we read, pointing things out as we go to show us just how responsible we as a whole are for the state of this fictional world. Water is the currency for Vera and the rest of the inhabitants of this vast dry and cracked empire–worth more than gold, more than morality and ethics, and more than life itself—as it is dammed and hoarded, stolen and polluted, and then rationed to the very last drop. All we can do is lick our lips to wipe away the dust and dryness that isn’t there while swearing the paper gets more brittle with every flip of the page as though the story is sucking the very life out of them just as our characters are being so brutally robbed of it themselves.
Though the premise certainly brings to light a future scenario that has every possibility of truly coming to pass–carrying with it a message of weight and importance–it remains simply a story; black and white letters on pages that progress in ascending numerical order. Vera and Will never feel quite real, instead reading of them is a bit like standing outside in the pouring rain where there is infinite potential to absorb what’s falling all around us, but instead of wearing short sleeves we are outfitted in waterproof jackets, forcing all the conflicts and emotions of this world to bead up and slide right off instead of seeping into the skin on contact. We want to care and we want to be horrified at the damage caused by humanity’s abuse of natural resources, but without that thriving connection to our main characters the intensity of their circumstances is significantly muted.
In addition to a bit of character detachment, there’s also a small believability issue when it comes to some of the events experienced by Will and Vera on their search for Kai. Granted, a great deal of the fun with reading comes from the temporary suspension of belief for the duration of the story, but the extraordinary nature of the crashes, floods, escapes, and general trouble Will and Vera find themselves in and manage to survive stretches our willingness to believe almost to its breaking point. Both Will and Vera live through a multitude of life-threatening situations, and while they don’t come away unscathed, their fairly severe injuries don’t appear to hinder them all that much, and they (along with the people they befriend) carry on with few side effects despite the loss of blood or the broken bones. In a world that is for the most part reality-based with no paranormal or supernatural happenings, the fantastical nature of the continuous cycle of peril and survival creates additional distance between the story and us as readers.
Overall, Water Wars is well written and forces us to have a new appreciation for the availability of precious H2O in our homes and lives, we just can’t help but wish we could unzip and remove our weather-resistant coverings so that we feel every nuance of the story without a barrier in between.