Description 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.
The Ward was one of my most anticipated 2013 reads. I liked parts of it, but the more I think about it, the more problems I have. First of all, you should know that I had a completely different expectation of what this book was going to be about. Which was totally my fault by the way, but it doesn’t really matter because that’s not why I rated it down anyway. I just thought it needed to be stated. I guess I didn’t read the blurb closely enough and saw the awe-inducing cover and just jumped up and down like a fool and that was that. So when the beginning started out with this girl racing up and down buildings, I was like, “Oh $&@# me.” I thought about putting it down. But I stuck it out. And I was glad I did, because the story in The Ward is actually incredibly well-written. But the world-building, not so much.
But first, the good things:
The writing. I quite liked it. I thought it was a great balance of sensory language, plot, dialogue, descriptions, etc. It flowed really well and I liked the sentence structure and voice of the author. Technically, here is not a lot to criticize here. I’ve read some reviews where readers were mentioning that they were having an issue picturing some of the settings, and I didn’t have that problem.
I also really liked Ren as a protagonist. I thought she was likable, kind, and determined. She had a lot of depth to her character–she had likes and dislikes, friends, opinions, and everything to me that makes a character great. It was a little unnerving sometimes the way she obsessed over Derek, but it wasn’t often and I’ve seen much worse in other books. If I could put her character on a ten point scale, I’d give her about an 8.5.
The rest of the characters though? Mehhhh. Derek was okay but he pissed me off a lot and his justification for doing things the way he did them didn’t work for me. So I really didn’t like him much and I am not all about the relationship in this novel the way I am in other books. I can take them or leave them. I don’t think they are a really good match for each other but I don’t hate them together either. I really don’t care, to be honest. I liked Callum a lot more than Derek. But he was kind of boring so that should tell you something. But Aven? She stole every scene that she was in.
But the plot is where The Ward excelled. There’s a plague and a search for a cure that takes the reader into some pretty exciting locations and scenes. It’s exhilarating and there were times I almost found myself holding my breath in anticipation of what would happen next. I was worried. Worried whether Ren would be able to pull it off and complete all her goals.
Not a fan of underwater scenes? Do they make you claustrophobic? You are going to want to skip this book. I almost lost my mind with the anxiety I had during one particular scene. It was really exciting. There’s a fantasy element to this story that some readers didn’t care for, but I kind of loved it. I thought it was unique and only served to give the plot even more depth.
The ending though was very disappointing for me. It just had to end on a cliffhanger and I am getting a little tired of those. Sometimes I don’t mind, but I feel like this one was done as a clear money grab so the author could write a second book. The Ward would have worked fine as a standalone and I almost feel like boycotting the sequel on principle.
The world-building though is the main reason I rated this one as a 3 star. There just wasn’t enough of it. Not enough explanation of how this world got to be the way it was. And then I talked to Giselle from Xpresso reads and she also pointed out that with this much water and this much technology, it’s utterly ridiculous that water is in such high demand and no one could figure out the desalinization process. She’s right. It’s stupid. They have all these high tech vehicles and medical processes, but no way to remove the sale from water when there are already devices TODAY that can do that? 50 years from now they should be able to do that on a large scale, one would think. I am not convinced. Because of that, like a house of cards, the rest of the world-building comes tumbling down. I just feel like the author missed out on an opportunity to really explain what was going on and all we got was a paragraph. So I think you’re going to be disappointed if you are one of those readers that really lives for the world-building in your dystopians. But if you are reading this for plot alone, I think there’s a good chance you might like it. I’m on the fence still at this point.
There was also some stupid mean girl bullshit that I could have done without completely. And slut-shaming. Because apparently Matahari and Cleopatra were sluts. LOL. No.