Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Water Wars

Cameron Stracher
Young Adult/Dystopian
240 pages
Sourcebooks Fire
Available Now
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.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Oooh great review Jenny! Water Wars seems like a pretty interesting book with a pretty heavy message. Even though there were believability issues maybe readers will see beyond that to the gem inside.

  2. I loved the metaphor you used, and the way you carried it through because I can't help but feel like that often when I read okay reads like this one.

    - Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)

  3. This one sounds interesting in it's premise, but I think it might be just a little too bleak for me!

  4. JENNY!! Have I ever mentioned that I'm a huge environmentalist? Because I am, and I absolutely LOVE the idea of this book!! :) Water Wars sounds like such a cool read! It sucks that you couldn't connect with the characters and that some parts seemed too unbelievable, but I'm glad that it still showcases this super-true water issue!

    Awesome review, Jenny! You always come up with the coolest metaphors and ways of explaining things so it's easier to understand! :)

  5. The cover of this one is so eye-catching!Pity you couldn't get attached to the characters!I hate it when that happens :(

  6. They did experience a bit too much, but I guess that is what books are for.

    And i liked the water idea

  7. Kris - The believability issues definitely won't be a problem for everyone, and if there had been one or two less life-threatening crashes, I would have been fine with the ones that were in there:)

    Asher - Thanks! It was pouring when I wrote this review so that's why it popped in my head:) Seemed fitting.

    Leanna - It was definitely interesting! I just wanted to feel more involved instead of being left on the outside looking in.

    Mimi - Awesome! You should give this a read then:) And thank you, I'm glad the metaphors make sense, sometimes I worry they'll be too much:)

    Krazzyme - LOVE the cover, it's one of my favorites YA covers ever:) I just wanted the characters to blow me away as much as that beautiful image:)

    Blodeuedd - True, and I think just a couple less instances of life and death and it would have been perfectly within my realm of believability while reading fiction:)

  8. Aaaah another wonderful cover with a so-so story. I saw other 2-3 star reviews on this one too such a shame it sounds so good. Thanks for the honest review! :)

    Xpresso Reads

  9. Great review, Jenny! I've been curious about this one ever since I first saw it, but I've never really dared taking the step to actually read it! I've heard a lot of similar thoughts about not quite connecting with it and I really dislike that. Still though, it intrigues me! We'll see if I'll give in and just pick it up one day anyway though! :)

  10. Thanks for reminding me that I bought this book months ago, but never read it!!

    The fantastical elements probably would have had me rolling my eyes, but only because broken bones really do hurt! I just don't know about this one. I could maybe manage to suspend believe to forge ahead on the mission, but not if there is a character disconnect.

    For now, I'll file this book away in Thing that make you say hmmm...

  11. What a crazy and scary premise - no water left in the world?! Your thoughts are very similar to other reviews I've read about this book so I will probably hold off on it. If I can't connect to the characters, it's an issue. Thanks for the honest review!

  12. Giselle - It had an awesome premise, I just felt like by the end the wars had just really gotten started, and I wasn't nearly as connected to the characters as I wanted to be:(

    Rebecca - Thank you! It's worth a read if getting emotionally involved isn't a huge factor for you, I thought the whole premise was scarily interesting:)

    Missie - You're welcome ;-) Broken bones definitely hurt, as do huge bloody gashes in legs. Just saying.

    Tara - Just the oceans that they're attempting to desalinate into drinking water. I can't imagine not being able to go to the faucet and grab a drink of water! Makes me thirsty just thinking about it:)

  13. LOL- well at least you found some things you liked in this book. I didnt like it, I thought maybe Al Gore wrote it...



  14. Interesting premise but it's tough when you can't connect with the characters. Sounds like had a great adventure even if a bit unbelievable.

  15. I don't know that this sounds like my kind of book, but I love all your water analogies. :)

  16. Oh shoot, I was actually thinking of taking this one out from the library this weekend, but your review is making me hesitant. The distant characters is making a bit worried. I think I'll lower this one on my tbr pile. Thanks for the heads up, Jenny.

  17. Tina - I knew the message was going to be blatant going in, so I think that's why it didn't bother me as much:)

    Alyssa - Characters are vital for me, I have to be emotionally attached or the book doesn't work:(

    Amanda - Thanks! I was on a roll apparently.

    Rummanah - You're welcome! It was a quick read, just not overly memorable for me.

  18. The Water Wars was one of those books that I just couldn't stand. I just couldn't buy into the characters' motivation, and I felt like the plot just kept jumping from one dangerous situation to the next. Still, the concept was cool. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jenny!

  19. I have this one waiting for me on my nook. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, though. Your response seems similar though - lots of 3s on this one. Why read if you're not going to get wet (hehehe, just following your theme, here)?

  20. I love the premise of this one so it's too bad that it's hard to connect with the characters. I'll probably give this one a try in the future (but I'm in no rush) just because I like the idea of it in spite of not being a huge fan of dystopians in general.

  21. This is a gorgeous cover and fascinating concept, but I keep hearing mixed things about it. Great review, Jenny--I don't tend to enjoy books where I don't connect with the main characters, so I'll probably be giving this one a miss.

  22. I have this one but haven't gotten to it yet. I've been curious about this one. I can see how the distance would bother you. I think it will me, but perhaps less so because I'm better prepared now.

  23. It sounds bleak but adventurous which is something I like. Also I keep getting this feeling that if do read The Water Wars it will make me very thirsty while I'm reading LOL.

  24. Lauren - I had a problem with all the dangerous situations as well. A couple I can deal with, but there were just too many in this one for me to believe:)

    Linds - Yes! Way to keep with the theme, I like it:) I enjoyed reading it, but it wouldn't be one I would tell people to rush out and read.

    Zahida - I just wanted a little bit more, the premise had such promise:)

    Wendy - I don't either, so that was my main issue with this one:(

    Melissa - That's how I was with the environmental message. I had read several reviews where they mentioned it could have been a bit more subtle, so I was prepared for it to be blatant and then when I read, I found it didn't really bother me that much at all:)

    Jenny - I kept a glass of water with me the whole time I was reading:)

  25. I was trying to decided if I wanted to offer this to my students as part of the dystopian unit I do...still kind of undecided. It helps push the issue (or awareness of it) when you can really connect with the characters.

  26. I liked this book too! It was very different from what I read, though I felt the plot did fall short sometimes. Loved the review Jenny!

  27. I have a copy of this one on my shelf, so I'll probably read it eventually, but that whole detachment from the characters thing that you mentioned kind of makes me want to steer clear for awhile.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  28. Oh I hate it when I feel detached from the characters. =( Thank you for the thoughtful and honest review Jenny. I think I will pass on this one since it is just okay. =)

  29. Great review! I really dislike when there's character detachment, but I think the premise itself (believability aside) speaks enough to me that I'll be checking this book out eventually.

  30. Bummer to hear this one was a bit of a let down. The blurb made it sound like a better version of Water World, but if the characters fell flat, then I guess it suffers the same issues as the movie.

    Thanks for the honest review!


  31. I haven't read this one yet, but I get dry mouthed every time I think of the title or look at the cover. It's too bad about the characters and having to suspend your belief that much. I mean there's only so much you can let go of before it becomes ridiculous. As always a very meticulous and insightful review. Great first paragraph! I have to go get some water!!


  32. The detachment from the characters worries me - I can barely tolerate books without that connection. It just makes it harder to enjoy the story.

    Great honest review, Jenny! :)

  33. Hrm, a 3/5… it still sounds like a book that would appeal to my older students and I find they can be a bit more forgiving when it comes to authors being a bit over the top. I'll keep it on my list for now…