They tell me the country looked different back then.
They talk of open borders and flowing rivers.
They say the world was green.
But drought swept across the globe and the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.
Enora Byrnes lives in the aftermath, a barren world where water has become the global currency. In a life dominated by duty to family and community, Enora is offered a role within an entity that controls everything from water credits to borders. But it becomes clear that not all is as it seems. From the wasted confines of her small town to the bowels of a hidden city, Enora will uncover buried secrets that hide an unthinkable reality.
As truth reveals the brutal face of what she has become, she must ask herself: how far will she go to retain her humanity?
Like everyone, I went through the Hunger Games inspired rush of post-apocalyptic YA back in my teens, and I really thought that a new take on the genre would be a rarity. I’m happy to report that Kristin Ward’s After The Green Withered is one of those gems that takes the usual tropes and breathes some fresh air into them in this intriguing and thought provoking novel.
We follow Enora, a resident of a small US town that like the rest of the world has been ravaged by global warming. Their water is monitored under the DMC, a corporation which has taken over the government, and those found using more than their fair share or trying to grow their own food with it are punished, in some cases by death. Enora finds herself recruited to work for the company straight out of school, unusually for someone from a poorer background such as herself – she then struggles between having finally found a career she is talented at and knowing her work helps support a lifestyle she doesn’t really believe in but is powerless to change.
The world building in this novel was really excellent – the descriptions of parched landscapes were actually very claustrophobic and I found myself reaching for my cup of tea several times when Enora described the dusty feeling of having no more water for the day.
The prologue catches the reader up on how this world works, but rather than feeling like an info-dump, it comes across as a vital history lesson. It reminded me of voiceovers at the start of films, and in my mind I could see sweeping desert landscapes as Enora explained how resources became scarce and the new rules were created.
It also feels like an incredibly logical post-apocalyptic future – with the news of global warming we see everyday, it is realistic to imagine that we could run out of water almost entirely and have to have it strictly regulated. I’ve lived through a couple of hose-pipe bans in the UK when we’ve had unusually hot summers, so to imagine that on a year-long, worldwide scale isn’t beyond belief.
If I had any criticisms for this novel, it would be that a lot of the supporting characters aren’t as well developed as Enora herself. Her new friend at the DMC Lina swings wildly between being the only nice girl there to frosty when a guy she likes becomes closer to Enora. On the subject of guys, there does seem to be a revolving door of handsome gents in Enora’s life to the point where I was thinking ‘wait – another love interest?’, but I feel like the most important one who becomes Enora’s partner at work was developed into an interesting character.
I’m also really pleased that this novel follows a newly graduated 18 year old in her first job, which actually lends itself more to the New Adult genre so many of us are desperately hoping for more of!
The end is left open and I do think I will be indulging in the sequel Burden of Truth to learn what happens next.
Overall, I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars!