Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Book Review: The Water Wars
So, my first YA debut authors review of the year: The Water Wars, by Cameron Stracher. A book that's rather dry in more ways than one.
It’s a bit tough for me to describe what I think about The Water Wars, because my feelings on the subject are a bit…beige. There wasn’t much emotional evocation from me one way or the other, which is not a good sign. It’s not a bad sign either, since it didn’t evoke frustration and disbelief, but it’s also not good. It’s just kind of…bleh.
I think the problem might be in the point of view. Like a lot of YA fiction, The Water Wars is written from a first-person POV, namely that of Vera, a young girl growing up in a world where water has become a more scarce and precious commodity than gold or oil. This works very well in the emotional aspect of the book: when we get scenes that are all about Vera and her feelings, like the budding romance between her and mysterious rich newcomer Kai, it’s very realistic and engaging.
However, the exposition about this world and how it works – descriptions of their government system, history, or even things like the illness that’s overcome Vera’s mother – doesn’t feel like it’s written in Vera’s voice. It’s more distant and somewhat off-putting, especially since we spend most of the first 3 chapters in that tone and only get into Vera’s real voice around Chapter 4.
As far as the actual story goes, it’s marketed as being “in the tradition of The Hunger Games,” but that isn’t really true. In fact, it’s more in the tradition of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984; the sort of dystopian fiction that’s about a close and realistic future that warns of the immediate sins of our present, rather than a distant and fantastical one where certain cultural aspects have been allowed to reign supreme over technology and lifestyle.
As such, there are times when its environmental message can be really hard to swallow, especially since it’s shoved into every chapter even when it feels kind of inappropriate. It takes a long time to get a handle of the main characters as well, especially since a lot of scenes that could provide more connection to their personalities are paraphrased, skipped over or just plain discarded.
In short: it’s not a bad book. At all. But it’s not really a good one either. If it hadn’t been for this review, I probably wouldn’t have finished reading it. The moments when I was truly engaged were just too few and far between for it to be worth it.