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Ruby isn't the kind of character that most people think of when they imagine who would survive the end of the world. Young, rebellious in the way only a teen can be and rather absent-minded, she seems more the type to fall fairly early on, too intent on getting to her cell phone to pay attention to the dangers all around her. And yet H2O is the story of Ruby's journey through an apocalypse where almost all the water on the planet carries a deadly bacteria ready to devour human flesh.
As far as apocalyptic hooks go, poisoned water is one of the more frightening. Not only does it fall from the sky at random intervals, but humans cannot live without it. So the premise of H2O is definitely enough to merit the sort of wide-spread death and destruction Ruby witnesses as she grows from naive high school popular girl to seasoned survivor of a global catastrophe. That isn't to say that she does it alone. The book does rely heavily on luck and coincidence, as well as other more cautious characters, to save Ruby from certain death time and again.
It's her optimism and naivety that make Ruby a compelling character from the start, though. The apocalypse takes her completely by surprise, and instead of being the type to have vast survival plans, she reads as more genuine as she slowly comes to terms with the severity of the situation. At first it is enough for her to be protected by her stepdad, then to partner up with nerdy boy Darius. Slowly, once all her old value systems have been stripped away, she begins to learn who she wants to be so that by the end, she can survive and live on her own.
For fans of apocalyptic fiction, this is definitely one to pick up, offering a new and novel approach to the genre. 
The only character in H2O I didn’t like was Darius. While Ruby felt like an unexpected choice as a protagonist in a survival story, she at least felt fleshed out and real. Darius never quite made it that far for me. Too much the stereotypical nerd, I felt setting him up as a possible romantic interest was a bit predictable, and rather unnecessary with a book that could have existed without that particular wrinkle.
The action moves from a slow stroll to frantic sprints and back again with style, though, and kept me reading intently along. The plot develops nicely with some clever twists concerning the government's knowledge and involvement in the widespread deaths, and the book does a fine job of not having everyone instantly turn into lawless monsters. That said, there wasn't a lot of satisfaction in the ending of this book, and while it might set up a sequel, I was a little let down by what was there. There is definitely a lot that can be done with the groundwork from this book, but there isn't a real sense of momentum or direction to really motivate me to find out what happens next.
Overall, I felt that H2O was a fun and compelling read, not exactly lending itself to deep reading but filled with style and charm. Ruby is a complex and well-rendered character, an unconventional choice for the story, but one that I felt paid off. And while I would have wanted to have a bit more resolution at the end and a bit more of a plot to tie everything together, I still enjoyed reading about Ruby's journey and growth. For fans of apocalyptic fiction, this is definitely one to pick up, offering a new and novel approach to the genre. Without knowing how long the series is going to be, though, I would hesitate to recommend it to casual readers, if only because this first book doesn't give a great idea of the direction the series might go.

Reviewed by Charles Payseur on October 7, 2014

by Virginia Bergin

  • Publication Date: October 7, 2014
  • Genres: Thriller, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • ISBN-10: 1492606545
  • ISBN-13: 9781492606543