Author: Jordana Frankel
Genre: YA, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, fantasy
Publication Date: April 30, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: 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.
☆: 4/5 stars – an awesome debut that will leave you desperate for more!
Review: While not perfect, “The Ward” is full of badassery. You want some magical reality with that dystopian book? You got it. You want drag racing ON ROOFTOPS? You got it. You want plagues and a post-America and a crazy new Earth? You got it. You want all of the feels of a sisterly relationship? You got that, too. I’m pretty sure “The Ward” is going to have something that appeals to everyone – dystopian fans, magical reality/paranormal fans, and action fans all alike. At first I thought this one was going to be a standalone, and once I got to the end, that thought really depressed me. But apparently this is one of a duology with Ren, Aven, and the rest in a waterlogged post-America, and that made me really happy. Frankel, to you I take off my hat – this is quite the debut, and one I’d totally go see if it were a movie.
One of this book’s largest strengths is its crossover appeal in terms of gendered readership. A LOT of YA is targeted toward girls, with very little crossover ability to get guys interested. Like, a handful of YA books or series can actually do that, and I think guys get left out a lot when it comes to YA lit in general. So much of it is a girl’s ideal of what a guy is, not really guy YA from a guy’s POV. I’m happy to say that this one will definitely appeal to the guys, if just for the non-stop action/tension and the drag racing. And the dystopian angle, which is played on pretty heavily only really within the latter half of the book.
But for those looking for a strong female MC? Ren is your girl. She puts up with so much, and struggles so hard to help everyone and save her sister, and manages to survive a system that goes against her socioeconomic place in this semi-post-American society, her place as a girl in racing, and her place as a foster kid within her own age group (though to be fair, because of the plague, there are a LOT of foster kids floating around – no pun intended – the ward). And it’s not just Ren who’s sturdily built – the entire main cast is. Even the most minor player in the main cast feels solid, real, and utterly 3D. They’ll hold water. (I can’t stop the water puns, guys, sorry.) They all have their own agendas at the end of the day, and the way Frankel makes them collide with Ren’s agenda really makes this book that much more awesome. It’s all about survival, and what you’re willing to do in order to survive, and that will turn people into creatures you’d never imagined. Frankel captures that aspect of humanity pretty much spot on perfectly.
There’s also the world. Because of Ren’s constant struggle with pretty much everything in her life, you do get this sense of all-encompassing tension and strain that just never lets up, and the fact that one has to battle just for drinkable water really makes that hit home all the more. Everything in this world helps build it – the drag races, the washed out wards, the rich isles, the abandoned old Manahattan apartments filled with insane riches that no longer apply – it all works toward it. And then the characters build upon it even more – because one has to survive and fight for everything, that constant character-driven tension really helps prop up the world, too. Frankel did a great job here and frankly, is pretty impressive for a debut effort.
The only problem: the pacing. It was pretty uneven the first third and the bridge to the second third of the book, which really brought the enjoyment down for me. But once that second third got started, things really came together, and made sense, and flowed really well. I think that first third needed another smooth edit, but otherwise, yeah. Uneven pacing was all the difference between four and five stars.
Otherwise? This is definitely a debut you can’t miss for 2013. “The Ward” will be out April 30, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out then. Definitely one of the best of 2013 so far!