Book Review [Aquifer]

Aquifer
Truth Lies Just Below the Surface. . .
Jonathan Friesen

Publisher:  Blink
Genre:  YA (young adult)
Christian

Only he can bring what they need to survive...

In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. And they’ll do anything to maintain their power – deceiving, dividing families, banning love... even killing those who oppose them.

But above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication – ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.

Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the only one allowed to contact the people called ‘Water Rats,’ who mine the essential water deep underground and bring it to the ‘Toppers’ who desperately need it above. 

But when he meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets – secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself – the net around him tightens. Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny – even as they fight for their lives.

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Warning:  Possible Spoilers.

When I first read the description for this novel, I was strongly reminded of the movie (haven't read the book) City of Ember, a favorite of mine, which really doesn't mean much, because I have SO many favorites. . . ;D Though between the two, there are some major differences.  In City of Ember, Earth's population is below in an underground refuge called Ember.  Jonathan Friesen's Aquifer has people above and below--different cultures, and yet somehow similar.

I found this story absolutely intriguing; one-of-a-kind.  In short, I loved it!  Though I was often confused by the dialogue and felt, at times, it was lacking in important facts about the story.  However, it was well worth it in the end.  Mr. Friesen's writing style is fantastic, in my opinion.  There were many words and phrases new to me that I loved.

[The Basics]
In Aquifer, the world as we know it now, is drastically different than in the "time" of Luca, set, as you saw above in the year 2250.  Books have been banned as evil.  (NOOOO!!!)  As well as cell phones and any related devices.  Vehicles are functional, however, and motor boats are used for transportation and execution (More on that in the Violence section.).  Due to the lack of rain, and possibly atmospheric pollution (though nothing of the sort is mentioned in the book), water is precious and in small supply.  

At least that is what the Toppers, the people who live on the parched surface, have believed for centuries.

The story is set in New Pert, a mainland city located on the landmass of Australya--the only known location where a coveted aquifer (a geological formation containing or conducting ground water) lies beneath.  Other countries mentioned, such as Sowt Amerika and Afrika, are presumed forsaken and New Pert is described as the "home [of] the only Toppers that remain."

Written in first person (not my most desirable style yet effective for this story), we step into the life of Luca, a young man of sixteen, the last in the line of the Deliverers, which we come to discover is a generation of men, chosen centuries before to maintain a treaty with the people below, known as Water Rats, and to obtain the year's supply of water by descending below using a route known only to them.

[RANDOM note about the people of New Pert:  Dreadlocks.  Yep.  Everyone has dreadlocks. (Long dreadlocks.  Luca is described as having long blond hair, falling down his back.)  At first this blew me away, because I cannot honestly imagine everyone in dreadlocks.  But then, it began to make sense.  I mean, how often would you have to wash your hair, right?  Especially if water is coveted and lacking quantity?  I dunno, just a thought. . .]

*ahem* Where was I?  Oh yes.

Awesome plot, confusing in places, but I believe it comes together well.  Huge plot twist near the end, that I wasn't really expecting.  Unpredictable, at least to me.  =]

[Spiritual Content]
Yes, this is a Christian novel, though I had a hard time figuring it out at first.  But that's just me.  "Almighty God" is mentioned a couple of times.  Prayer as well.  Throughout the plot, Luca is led by a Voice, who speaks to him in his mind.  The book is a little vague on Who exactly it is supposed to be.  You just assume.  Others listen to Him as well and are referred to as Wishers.

[Violent Content]
The Toppers are controlled by a Council, who in turn controls a group of men known as the Watchers, or the Amongus--the people's pet name for the hated men--that acts as a type of police force or militia on behalf of the Council.  These men possess dials that detect "wrinkles," which is any form of illegal emotion (love, laughter, fear, anger, etc.), and delivers the punishment accordingly.  The consequences of these "crimes" warrant either a debriefing, which is, frankly put, a brainwashing, the result of which makes one a numb, walking slave; or the March of the Undone, where the targeted person/persons are marched to the docks, board a boat, row to a certain point of the ocean, clap weighted shackles to their wrists and ankles, and jump overboard.  Horrific, I know.  Any reference to a dead person, or to death at all, is referred to as undone.  One character has the grisly job of retrieving the undone, but I won't go into that.

Lies are multiplied and abound.  Fear brings chaos and people are beaten and bruised, starved, stabbed, and/or scarred (mentally and physically).  Explosions tear through walls, rocks and arrows fly, hitting targets with fatal results.

[Love-y Content]
Luca eventually meets someone.  A girl, and she sends him head-over-heels.  Literally.  =]  In a good way, I guess.  They hold hands, hug, and kiss (two times, I think).  Nothing more.  I promise, it's safe.

[Other]
In time, Luca descends, testing his memory on the path he has learned since a wee child.  A race of humans that he was taught were ugly and deformed--devolved even, turn out to be quite the opposite.  He finds friendship in unlikely people, and enemies in others.  A prophecy is spoken of, but never explained.  Instead it is pieced together throughout and it isn't until the end that you really discover what it all means.

[Conclusion]
Again, I found this book truly intriguing.  To me, it was a fresh adventure filled with daring, emotion, and a great perspective of how lies, when told over and over, eventually become truths to a hopeless people.  One of the quotes that really stood out to me was this:

"We're told Wishers are evil, but they gave their lives for me.  We're told our leader will care for us, but we end up undone.  We're lied to all our lives.  We teach lies to the children, and they pass them on to theirs, and after years of the drumbeat, lies sound like the truth.  That's when the flip happens, and what's real and good sounds like insanity.  
We've traded the truth for a lie."
--Luca, pgs. 239


Lies are powerful.  But truth is greater still.

I was provided a copy of this book, thanks to BookSneeze.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Recommended ages:  14-16+

My rating:

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4 comments

Claire M. said...

When I first read your description, it sounded like City of Ember too! Sounds interesting.

Katie said...

Wow! Sounds pretty interesting. I may have to check this book out. :)
Katie:)

Jillian said...

I just got my review copy in the mail today! It does sound like City of Ember. Great review!

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Thanks for commenting, ladies! I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it =]