The Ward #1
Katherine Tegen Books
Available April 30th
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.
However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.
The Ward presents us with yet another bleak look at a possible future, a world where an airborne infection runs rampant, drinkable water is scarce despite entire cities being flooded, and the wealth of a few determines the fate of the many. While a disease-ridden post-apocalyptic setup is certainly nothing new, Ms. Frankel does create some very interesting elements given the prevalence of water, and while sometimes her obviously clear vision of this world doesn’t always translate for us as readers, there’s something fascinating about the pieces we are able to put together. The real strength of this story, however, lies in the characters themselves, our connection to them and their struggles overwhelming any confusion we experience with the world-building and ensuring we add this book to the list of series we wish to continue.
We initially meet Ren as a rough-and-tumble thirteen year-old who’s been raised in an orphanage and has watched as everyone around her gets adopted out. As a result, she makes absolutely no attempts to form attachments to anyone knowing they will inevitably leave her behind. Spending time with this younger version of Ren in the prologue gives us a much deeper understanding of the Ren we’re with for the remainder of the story, laying a beautifully painful foundation for the fight Ren is about to undertake in order to save the one girl who dodged, ducked, and destroyed every single one of Ren’s defenses to make her way straight into Ren’s heart.
Ren is as strong as they come (though she often thinks the opposite of herself), someone who would likely laugh in your face if you wanted to have a heart to heart, but who so clearly feels deeply an passionately about the select few people in her life. She projects a strictly superficial persona, letting people know only the things she wants them to know and nothing more, making our access to her fears, her pain, and her desperation to save Aven all the more intimate and profound. The extraordinarily subtle romance between her and longtime crush Derek is well-executed, the romance not a foregone conclusion as so many are in young adult fiction, but rather it's a quiet yet powerful connection pulsing with so many intricacies we quickly realize it could either progress into something meaningful or devolve into something dark and hurtful.
While the depth of Ren’s character does make up for a few of the drawbacks of this story, our love for her can’t act as a plug for every hole we find. There are some things about her past–particularly the fact that she is immune to the virus sweeping through the Ward as well as the reasons why she was never adopted–that plague us as we try and lose ourselves in this watery future. Additionally, there are several aspects of the world that are difficult to grasp because we simply can’t picture them; namely the way the mobiles Ren is so gifted at piloting actually race from rooftop to rooftop. There are a multitude of scenes depicting the races themselves and several action-packed sequences involving these vehicles, but given their complexity and the foreignness of how they work, we find ourselves distanced from the story during the times we should be holding our breath in anticipation. Overall though, I simply have to know what’s to come of Ren, Aven, and Derek, so I am eagerly anticipating book two.
Rating: World-building/plot – 3.5/5
Characters – 4/5
More information on Jordana and The Ward can be found here: