If you ever lack subjects about which to worry, you can always google “world water crisis”. You will find out that diseases from unsafe water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. (Indeed, wars in the dryer regions of the world are often fought over access to rivers and dams.) You will learn here that more than 3.4 million people a year die of water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world.
But in this story, the crisis has reached the United States, and because access to fresh, purified water means life or death, the world has turned into a dangerous, cut-throat game of survival fought not only among people, but among the animals who are also desperate for water. The population has been depleted because of diseases caused by dirty water, like cholera. Access to antibiotics has also been imperiled; demand has outstripped supply, and there are no longer enough people to develop and produce the drugs. The primary way to obtain them is to forage through abandoned houses and hope one finds bottles of expired prescriptions.
Lynn, 16 and her mother Lauren live in an isolated area by a pond, which they take turns guarding day and night. They purify the pond water by methods Lauren learned from an old National Geographic, relying on sunlight. They have had to kill a number of poachers who have threatened their hold on the pond. Lynn’s mother has taught her a hardened, cynical view of other people, and it is not until her mother is killed that she is forced to interact with some of these people herself, and learn how best to survive in a world in which trust may be the most scarce resource of all.
Evaluation: There have been a few post-apocalyptic books centered on the theme of water shortage, but not many of them have succeeded. [One of them that did work was Blood Red Road by Moira Young (see my review here). That book, however, had extensive world-building, including a much more sophisticated portrayal of what a water-depleted environment would look like, and a saga-like plot that grabbed you from the very beginning.] This book is not bad, but is, in my opinion, a somewhat unexceptional addition to the vast storehouse of books in this genre.
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2013