I have never experienced a book being better in the second half than the first! It was The Ward by Jordana Frankel that delivered this unusual experience. Rennie is an orphan as are many kids in a world where the has killed off a lot of parents and kids in a world that was already destroyed by the Great Wash Out which has put New York City underwater creating an interesting subterranean world. In this world fresh water is more valuable than diamonds, and food and opportunity is pretty scarce too for those who live in the Ward, formerly Manhattan.
When we meet Rennie, she is determined not to get close to any of the other children at the orphanage as she is sure they will be adopted and there isn’t any point in caring about them. That’s how she feels until she meets the irrepressible Aven who grabs her heart as she is sneaking out to join the racers.
It really wasn’t clear initially how this street racing works as the ‘streets’ would be underwater, but gradually details emerge that they race vehicles that are part mini car and part amphibious vehicles. Rennie ends up being quite a good racer, and her earnings help her buy meds for Aven who ends up catching the disease. Plus, she has to race as part of her cover. Caught earlier stealing for fresh, she is forced to work undercover for the current regime’s quasi military/spy network.
So the first half seemed a bit stereotypical about the tough orphan with the secret heart of gold. A girl who succeeds in the misogynistic sport of racing, who is controlled by an evil government, etc. The juvenile relationships and dialogue were reminiscent of The Uglies series, which while entertaining could sometimes verge on annoying. It just seemed that this was more of an entertaining action type of dystopian/apocalyptic story. Then midway through Jordana Frankel starts raising serious food for thought as Rennie has to ponder whether saving one life is worth more than the many, what if the lives she is saving aren’t people worthy of being saved, etc. My reaction was like those times when you are in a sleep lull and suddenly you jerk awake. I felt like I was suddenly brought into a more sophisticated story with depth.
I hope the next book will continue along the track of the second half of this first one and not model the first half.