They talk of open borders and flowing rivers. They say the world was green.
Enora Byrnes was born in the future, only her world doesn’t look like ours. It isn’t lush or surrounded by water: it is barren. Years before Enora’s parents were born, the human race neglected their duties to the environment. They didn’t look after it, and then, one day, the icebergs melted, catastrophe hit, and all the world’s waters dried up. The only company who seemed to have prepared for such a disaster was the DMC. They took control of America’s water supplies and distributed them amongst the remaining population.
For Enora, the DMC has always been an undisputed power. They are not only in control of America’s water; they are also in control of its people. Enora has never had any interest in working for the company, knowing all its employees become “drones”. Yet one day, she is recruited as a pathfinder, and after she graduates from school, she is taken to the DMC headquarters to begin her training.
Her job is to track down the “terrorists” who seek to steal the DMC’s water supplies. She is involved in their executions, only she isn’t happy. No one has told her what these “terrorists” are guilty of. She knows nothing about them, and yet she must assist in their murder. As she continues her work, she begins to realise just how trapped she really is. If she doesn’t do her job, the DMC could hurt her friends and family, and yet how can she keep working when she knows just how wrong her actions are?
Kristin Ward’s dystopian debut, After the Green Withered, questions our treatment of the natural world. It gives life to the potential tragedies brought about by climate change, reminding us of the future generations that may suffer if we continue to pollute toxins into our atmosphere. By exploring such tragedies through Enora, it brings problems regarding climate change uncomfortably close to home, tackling powerful issues whilst nevertheless fulfilling the tropes of a successful young adult novel.
Enora has lived her life in a state of poverty; she has never had enough food, water, or even clean clothes. As a result, readers are likely to feel sympathy for her as she places herself into the clutches of the imperious DMC. Throughout After the Green Withered, she finds herself in a number of impossibly complex situations, risking her life on multiple occasions as she attempts to unravel the mysteries of this powerful organisation. Yet Enora is still very much a young girl, and she must also tackle the issues experienced by most young girls. She is involved in multiple romantic dramas that add an interesting layer of tension to this narrative whilst never overshadowing the threat of the DMC.
For the most part, this novel is well written. Ward’s writing may come across as a little abrupt, yet it is still descriptive, and it suits the setting of After the Green Withered, providing it with a mechanical feel that coincides with the technological advances Ward considers. The novel also contains short poems that help break up the story of After the Green Withered, although they are arguably not as powerful or emotionally charged as Ward intended them to be.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of this book is its ending; it ends on a cliffhanger, which can be a very effective narrative device, yet in the case of After the Green Withered, it prevents the story from coming to any real kind of conclusion. This book is a part of a series, which may explain this use of the cliffhanger, yet a well-written series will allow each individual novel to speak for itself. This is not possible in After the Green Withered, for although it leaves its readers wanting more, this is arguably at the cost of a conclusive ending.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that After the Green Withered is an exceptionally powerful novel. To promote issues regarding climate change whilst conveying an action-driven narrative is no simple task, yet Ward hits the mark with this novel. Her message is simple: if we do not begin caring for our environment, future generations will suffer. In the case of After the Green Withered, millions of people died after the icebergs melted. The rest of the population live restricted lives as they follow the unquestioned orders of the DMC. She promotes this message to young adult readers, perhaps with the hope of encouraging environmental concerns in younger audiences. Whether this is successful or not, After the Green Withered is an extremely enjoyable story that is sure to keep you entertained.