Book Review: The Ward
By: Jordana Frankel
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: April 30, 2013
Genre: YA dystopian
I've seen a few reviews out there that, to be frank, picked this book apart. I won't be doing that here, for one very simple reason: I couldn't put the book down. Nearly 400 pages, and I had to fight to take breaks for things that demanded my attention.
I love this setting. A flooded NYC affords the reader enough familiarity that it's not hard to picture, yet this is certainly not the NYC we know and love. the busy streets and sidewalks have been replaced with watery canals that are affected by the tide. The lower floors of the high-rise buildings are underwater and therefore mostly uninhabitable. The inhabitants are used to this flooded city, and have adapted; many are used to traveling in water-friendly craft, and all have crafted systems for collecting and filtering rain water for drinking. There is still a lack of sufficient fresh water, however, and this is a major plot point.
I love that this plot is so fast-moving. The water races, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, set a very quick pace that doesn't let up between races. We jump from scene to scene, with date and time stamps in the chapter headers to remind the reader that things are moving very quickly. Ren has to think fast to stay ahead of the doom that is chasing her, and the reader rides right alongside her- and it gets better with every passing page.
I love the characters, especially Ren. She is strong and smart- independent, yet loyal to the few friends who have managed to worm their way into her heart. She is especially attached to Aven, a fellow orphan who is such a good friend that the girls refer to each other as sister. There's Benny, the trusty, protective mechanic that helps her keep her racing rig going, and Derek, her bookie and resident hottie. Of course there are fellow racers as well, all of whom are guys, some of whom are nice.
I love that one particular piece of lore is woven in- I can't tell you what it is, but when you get there, you'll know! This plot point will be just familiar enough to readers to hook into prior knowledge, and to include it in a dystopian is such a wonderfully original idea.
I acknowledge that there is room for the writing to improve. I'm okay with ignoring the little issues here, though, because The Ward is so entertaining. I'm sure that the prose will improve as Frankel continues to write, and as this is her debut, I look forward to her future work- including the sequel.
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Jordana Frankel’s ambitious debut novel and the first in a two-book series, The Ward is arresting, cinematic, and thrilling—perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld or Ann Aguirre.