‘The Water Wars’ falls flat, fails to live up to intriguing premise

The Water Wars falls flat, fails to live up to intriguing premise

Kira Lubahn

Cover art used with permission under fair use doctrine.
Back in junior high, I finished reading every single book I started. Even if I wanted to throw the book against the wall out of frustration, I forced myself to push through and read the whole story up until the last page.
Thankfully, I don’t have that compulsion anymore. If a book I’m reading for pleasure is that horrible, I set it down and move on.
That’s exactly what I did with “The Water Wars” by Cameron Stracher.
The premise of the novel is intriguing, but that’s its only redeeming factor. Vera and her older brother, Will, live in a post-apocalyptic world that is running out of water. The only water that is readily available has been desalinized and is heavily rationed. When Vera sees Kai drinking and illegally spilling water on the ground, her interest is piqued. Kai’s father is a free-lancing water driller, making him very wealthy. Vera and Kai eventually become friends, so when Kai appears to have been abducted, Vera and Will set out to save him.
That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Trust me, it gets worse.
If you don’t want to be spoiled for this book, stop reading now because some of the problems I had with this novel reveal key aspects of the plot.
The first of many problems with ‘The Water Wars’ was the narrator. Starting out, I really wanted to like Vera. She’s a young woman in a dystopian world, and I was ready to cheer for her success. Unfortunately, she falls flat. She’s supposed to be 15 but sounds more like a dull child. After she meets Kai, a lot of her thoughts are focused solely on him.
Does he like her? How does she feel about him? Will they kiss?
Frankly, I’m tired of female protagonists pining after mysterious boys. It’s an overused trope in young adult literature, and while I’m not against having romance be a part of a narrative, this specific dynamic has been done to death. It doesn’t help that with the way Vera is written, it’s grating instead of believable.
On the subject of belief, it was impossible for me to believe that anything about the plot was possible. Suspension of disbelief is incredibly important for post-apocalyptic science-fiction novels, otherwise the reader can’t get drawn into the book’s world.
Throughout “The Water Wars” there was one question constantly on my mind. Where did the water go? Vera informs us that the Canadians have a lot of it controlled by dams and that there are special ships that suck moisture out of clouds, but she also tells us that the polar ice caps have melted. I just couldn’t believe in the universe that Stracher has created.
The other main problem I had with “The Water Wars” was the pacing. Before Kai’s abduction, relatively nothing happens. We learn that Vera and Will’s mother is sick and probably dying. Vera, Will and Kai go to an arcade. Kai comes over for dinner. It’s dull, and then Kai’s kidnapped and everything happens all at once.
The way Stracher has the plot set up, there’s a lot of action crammed into a few pages, and then nothing happens for a bit. Then he does the same thing, and then he does it again. First, Vera and Will are captured by pirates, but end up befriending them. Then a dam explodes and they miraculously survive even though they can’t swim. After that they’re imprisoned by domestic terrorists, and they fail at an escape attempt. They’re almost sold into slave labor at a water mine, but they manage to get away. At this point, I stopped reading. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Maybe the ending would have been this book’s redeeming factor, but I’ll never know because I couldn’t be bothered to get there. This is one dystopian, young-adult novel you’ll want to skip. The idea behind it is interesting, but the execution fails miserably.
By Kira Lubahn