Washed Out: A Review of The Ward

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Well, it’s been almost a month since I posted anything up here, and it would seem that I have some things to catch up on. Furthermore, looking back over many of my more recent posts, while there are certainly some things that touch on great storytelling across a variety of mediums, there isn’t much that focuses on literature or writing. Anyway, here I hope to remedy that.

Way back when I started this blog, I mentioned that I was excited for the release of a book called The Ward, the debut by author Jordana Frankel. In fact, this was my second post on the blog. Now, all the way in September, I actually made time to read the book, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you, whether you want them or not. So there.

1.) Voice:

As I mentioned in that previous post, I went to see Frankel do a reading at Books of Wonder in New York City. During the question and answer session following her reading, she mentioned that Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson was a major inspiration for her as a writer. If I hadn’t heard her say that, I wouldn’t have thought about it when reading The Ward. There isn’t much that links the two books together, other than that they are set in the near future (respective to when they were written), however, the voice of the protagonist, Ren, is certainly a strong one that infuses the narrative. My favorite part about Snow Crash was the writing skill and voice that Stephenson displayed. Unfortunately the constraints of YA as a genre don’t allow for that level and style of writing to be showcased by an author, but Frankel’s protagonist felt more real to me than many others in the YA genre, largely because of how she was written and how she expresses herself.

2.) Setting:

The setting in this story is hit and miss for me. I love the idea of an underwater New York City, and anyone who has lived through the past two hurricane seasons here will tell you that that reality is probably not too far away. I also like a lot of the things we do see here, like the rooftop racing that Ren engages in and the plague racked streets of the ward. However, I do think a little more detail and description could have fleshed out the setting more, particularly in the history department. We do get a good feel for what is happening in Ren’s world and what she is engaged in as it happens. We also do get some hints about what happened to New York with brief descriptions of the infamous “Wash Out”, but a little more in this department would go a long way in creating a fuller world, I think.

3.) Hybrid SF and Fantasy:

So, this is a tricky area, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t enjoy when a story combines both sci-fi and fantasy elements. For those of you who don’t know, the basic premise for the story is that Ren finds the Fountain of Youth and hopes that she can use it to cure the plague, which has afflicted her best friend. The story certainly leans more towards being an SF story. Not only is it set in the future, but there are also some scientific explanations given for the way the Fountain water works. Granted, it’s somewhat vague, but it is enough to show that the spring isn’t purely magical, which suits the narrative just fine. I think this is a point where some people will be able to accept a fantastical and magical McGuffin in the narrative and others will find it too jarring. You know what you like, so just know that’s an element that’s in the story.

In Conclusion:

Overall I would say that The Ward is a fun read and definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic YA fiction. I am curious to see how the second, and final, book of the series will expand on the characters, plot, and the world that we have seen so far.

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