Reviewed by Krista Castner

Cameron Stracher’s dystopian young adult novel combines an eco-centric message with a fast paced shoot ‘em-up story. The Water Wars didn’t succeed brilliantly on either level, but held my attention as the protagonists jumped from one danger fraught scene to another.

Fifteen year-old Vera, and her older brother Will, live in a future where the former United States is made up of Republics, and the earth doesn’t have easily accessible fresh water. It is a parched, bleak world. Potable water is distilled from the ocean. This water is tightly rationed, and very expensive.

Vera forms a new and unlikely friendship with a fellow teenager named Kai. Eventually Kai lets her in on a secret. He’s a water-diviner. He can tell where fresh water exists under the earth’s surface. When Kai is kidnapped, the action skyrockets.

Vera and Will set out to save Kai and are caught in a series of increasingly violent episodes. First they are captured by water pirates, led by Ulysses. Then militant environmentalists blow up a dam and the pair almost drowns. Next they are captured and sold to child slavers. Ulysses, whom they thought had drowned in the flood, rescues them from the slavers. Ulysses is one of the more well-developed characters in the book. However, he keeps popping up at unexpected times like Yukon Cornelius the prospector did in the classic television show, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Nothing can defeat this guy.

The action ratchets up and up. It soon becomes implausible. I didn’t buy all the scrapes the kids survived, or their ability to bounce from one danger-filled scene to the next. Vera and Will were fairly two-dimensional characters dragged along by the action. The early descriptions about life without access to fresh water were well written. It was a relief turn on my own tap and see the water gush out. But this book’s baddies were over the top.

The Water Wars has a good premise that kept me engaged, but it is violence laden, especially since it’s marketed as a YA novel. Its split personality veers from illustrating the environmental consequences of wasting water to an action adventure story. I would have liked a less frantic pace as the kids looked for Kai, and a more developed set of characters and plotline.

Rating: 2.5/5

Looking for other dystopian novels? Check out our reviews of Wither and Matched.

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks Fire. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.