First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY! I can’t imagine a better way to ring in the new year than with a stack of books (because books are so much better than a boyfriend) and a book review!
H2O is a hard book to review, so I’m already kicking off the year with a challenge. It’s both hard to love and hard to hate. I just finished it and there’s a jumbled, swirling mix of irritated criticisms and high praises in my head.
The Story: In this post-apocalyptic novel (originally published in the UK as The Rain), Ruby Miller is one of the few survivors left. Ruby lives in a world where poisoned rain has contaminated every drop of water on the planet. You can’t drink it or even touch it without developing a rash that literally causes you to claw your skin to shreds. As bottled water and canned foods start to run out, Ruby decides she must embark on a cross-country trip through the UK to find her somewhat estranged father. On her way, she encounters a variety of other characters who have also miraculously managed to survive and some other wicked surprises along the way.
The Low Down: Virginia Bergin does a phenomenal job of setting up this world in which we are deprived of the very thing that gives us life. It’s very well thought out, and you find yourself saying, “OMG I NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT!” which makes an otherwise crazy scenario seem very real and feel very scary. Toxic rain means so much more than not getting caught outside in a downpour. Anything that grows in or out of the ground is off limits, so there are no fresh fruits or veggies. This also means burying the dead is no longer possible either. Touching someone (or something) that has touched or ingested contaminated water is also a no-no, so no more livestock to use for food. Once the water seeps into water pipes and tanks, no more drinking water from the tap and (perhaps the scariest and most mortifying of all) no using the toilet. Bergin really picks out every single little thing that we take for granted every day, and snatches it right out from under us.
So that was my praise. Now for my complaint.
Ruby is a pain in the arse. It’s just that simple. The book is written as Ruby telling the reader the story of what’s happened. It’s not written like diary entries, but instead as a narrative written by Ruby as she reflects on the recent events. Ruby’s emotional roller coaster through the book is exactly how I’d expect an average teenager to respond. That aspect of it was extremely realistic. HOWEVER. Ruby is also terribly vain and self-serving and SO. FREAKING. WHINY. For example…
Poison rain takes out 98% of the population, but she has to make sure she has a spray tan, dyed hair, and flawless waterproof mascara before she goes out to loot houses for supplies. Maybe as a teenager, maintaining a routine helps her feel like she has control over something, which can help her cope with the situation. But it just makes her come across and stupid and irritating. I kept mentally screaming “GET A GRIP ON REALITY AND FOCUS ON WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT HERE.” Later, she bumps into a boy she knows from school. Nearly everyone on the planet is dead, and instead of being happy that she actually found another living person, she throws an enormous hissy fit because he’s a huge nerd and does nothing but mock him during their time together. She just wasn’t an enjoyable character to read about. Her character develops and evolves a bit (although not much), but her obnoxious, arrogant attitude made me not care what happened to her.
There is a sequel on the way (Goodreads lists the anticipated UK release date of The Storm as February 2015), but I doubt I’ll take the time to read it. I’d love to read more about this water-depraved world and how it’s all gone to hell, but hearing it through the incessant whining of the main character isn’t worth the time when I’ve got a stack of books I’d like to read that’s taller than me.
Bottom Line: A+ for plot and detail in this particular post-apocalyptic world. B+ for writing, C- for characters (it didn’t seem fair to fail it because not all the characters were annoying… just Ruby)
OFFICIAL RATING: 6.5/10