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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

H2O by Virginia Bergin: REVIEW


H2O by Virginia Bergin
336 pages
Sourcebooks Fire (October 7, 2014)
Buy on Amazon

"The diary-style narration emphasizes Ruby's distinctly teenage response to society's end and her strong, spontaneous voice lends a touch of dark comedy to the post-apocalyptic doom and gloom... watching Ruby draw strength from her ability to tell her own story is as inspiring as it is harrowing" - The Horn Book Magazine



From the Jacket Blurb:
.27 is a number Ruby hates.It's a number that marks the percentage of the population that has survived. It's a number that means she's one of the "lucky" few still standing. And it's a number that says her father is probably dead.
Against all odds, Ruby has survived the catastrophic onset of the killer rain. Two weeks after the radio started broadcasting the warning, "It's in the rain. It's fatal and there's no cure," the drinkable water is running out. Ruby's left with two options: persevere on her own, or embark on a treacherous journey across the country to find her father-if he's even still alive.


"It's in the rain...and just one drop will kill you."


15 year-old Ruby Morris is obnoxious. In fact, she's possibly if not definitely the most annoying narrator of any YA book I've ever encountered. And just about all reader reviews of the book agree with this assessment.  She's an image and status obsessed snobby teenage brat, at times more concerned with putting on a sparkly top and makeup than smartly surviving the apocalyptic killer rain that has wiped out all but .27% of the world's population. You often find yourself thinking "UGH, what is wrong with you, Ruby? How can you still be THIS annoying? How could YOU of all people have survived when so many more likeable, clever, responsible people were dead within the first few days?" These questions are surprisingly, fascinatingly, the very reason why I enjoyed this book.

Let's face it: the world is full of annoying, frustrating people. People with different priorities and values and personalities than yourself. Ultimately harmless people that you just don't, well...like. And in the event of an apocalypse, these people don't just magically go away. Killer rain doesn't kill with discrimination. Many of the survivors of this story just got lucky. Ruby is a fault-filled person just like you or I (albeit far more immature), and catastrophe doesn't automatically change people into deeper people. At least not immediately, and not always in obvious ways...

Even if Ruby is as shallow as a drop of the alien killer rain from which she's running...she's still human. And like it or not, being human means that we are (as a species) a mix of good and bad, complex and simple, deep thinkers and painfully, mind-numbingly shallow idiots. We don't get to pick from only our best qualities to define what being human means. We can't control the behaviors and decisions of others. We can't force them to abandon who they are, who they've been, to suddenly become our version of a "better", more-likeable person.

Accepting that others are others, that they think and act differently and that this is OK---is a worthwhile (although sometimes very challenging) exercise in becoming better people ourselves. Ruby doesn't deserve to die just because I don't like her. And she doesn't deserve NOT to be the main character of a book just because I wouldn't want to be her friend in real life. Because in real life, there are countless Rubys in the world. Imperfect, immature, infuriating kids naively stumbling through the world---just trying to live to see another day. We may want Ruby to grow up (fast!) and prove her worth to us as a narrator we can be proud of, but really, she doesn't owe us a darn thing. She is who she is. Peoples is peoples.

In the end, it's not the differences that matter but the ways in which even VERY different people are the same.

"Please don't leave me."

Throughout the story, Ruby finds herself thinking these words. Silently imploring whoever happens to be around her to hang around a little longer. These tiny glimmers of desperation, of fear and desire not to be alone, let us see through to her deeper humanity. This is the Ruby that I understand and that I pity. No one wants to be alone. Ruby has lost just about everyone she knows and cares for. She's going through hell and yet she keeps going. Who am I to deny her the things that make her happy? The little things that add a bit of sparkle to an otherwise gray, dead (and deadly) world---even if her happiness does come in the form of an impractical, shimmering sequined top?

I hope to see more of Ruby. I hope that her story doesn't end here. I hope there is a sequel and I hope to get the chance to see her evolve into a better maturer version of herself.

I have to hope, because even in the face of unlikely odds, to hope is to be human.
Well, it's part of it, anyway.


A Note on the Book's Design:














I quite like what Sourcebooks Fire has done with the book jacket and cover. Yellowish green acid-rain like droplets seem to have burned holes into the cover, revealing two key words in the raindrop shaped text block on the hard cover: "drop" and "scream" are very clearly highlighted by the cutouts which ominously sets the stage for the events that unfold. An effective cover, I love that it doesn't resort to the hideous trend in YA covers of overly Photoshopped imagery. I like that it's purely graphic. Simple, clean, and intriguing. No people. Only drops of killer rain, daring you to touch it with your bare hands.


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