Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Water Wars - Cameron Stracher

Summary:  Welcome to a future where water is more precious than oil or gold...

Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fall--victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration.  It is a time of drought and war.  The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few.  There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas.

But Kai didn't seem to care about any of this.  He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt.  He didn't go to school, and he traveled with armed guards.  Kai claimed he knew a secret--something the government was keeping from us...

And then he was gone.  Vanished in the middle of the night.  Was he kidnapped?  Did he flee?  Is he alive or dead?  There are no clues, only questions.  And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent.  We have to find him--and the truth--before it's too late for all of us.  (Summary from book - Image from barnesandnoble.com  - Book given free for review)

My Review:  Wow. Doesn't that cover just take your breath away? I did a little dance when I received this book in the mail because, like the rest of the world (including you), I tend to judge a book by its cover, at least initially, and couldn't help but set aside the rest of my books and dive right in to this one.

I enjoyed the fundamental structure of this book – its basic plot, setting, and characters. Cameron Stracher creates a combination of urban decay, sun-baked desert, and futuristic technology as he tells the story of Vera and her brother Will, who are struggling to survive in a world that has been drained of its natural resources. Chased by water pirates, environmental terrorists, and greedy corporations, they scour the parched earth for their lost friend, a boy with the mysterious ability to find water.

While this book had an interesting premise, it was not without its flaws. It's fast pace frequently felt so rushed that I wasn’t able to fully absorb any of the secondary characters, emotions, changing settings or events before they had blown past. Consequently, Vera’s relationships with Kai and, especially, Ulysses developed so quickly that they didn’t feel authentic. Overall, the story felt thin, like I was reading along the surface of a great story that could have delved deeper, but did not.

This novel has a strong environmental theme about the importance of conserving our natural resources and caring for our planet in order to avoid long-term and devastating consequences. It also implies that natural resources should belong to the people as a whole and not to individual governments. The idea that the world could be plunged into a war for Earth’s water resources was morbidly fascinating and all too possible, which left me wondering “Could this really happened, and what would I do if it did?” While I tend to dislike YA books that push an obvious agenda, an attempt to cultivate a sense of environmental responsibility in today’s youth is hardly worth complaint.

The Water Wars has been hailed as a “rousing adventure story in the tradition of The Hunger Games.” This is an exciting promise, but ultimately an optimistic one. It was an interesting YA read, but it has neither the heart nor the teeth of The Hunger Games and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment that despite its fascinating premise The Water Wars didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars (A younger reader might not notice or care about some of the things I did and rate this higher).

For the sensitive reader: This book contains slightly graphic descriptions of death.

Sum it up: While this dystopian YA novel wasn’t quite as psychologically compelling or complex as The Hunger Games, it was an admirable and entertaining attempt.

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