Love me a good story where almost everyone dies early on. Virginia Bergin has found a particularly brilliant way to off her characters – the killer is nothing less innocuous than water. Specifically, rain.
At the start of this YA novel, teenager Ruby has just kissed the boy of her dreams, Casper, in the hot tub at the party of a mutual friend who lives on a Devon farm. No sooner has she begun to recover from that than their friend’s parents are dragging them out of the hot tub. Not because they’re getting up to something they shouldn’t, but because the radio and TV have just gone haywire with warnings to get inside and stay there. It’s about to rain, and the rain is filled with a killer bacteria that causes immediate cell breakdown. Bleeding from all orifices, etc, etc. There is no cure.
Of course rain doesn’t stay in the sky, nor on the ground. It’s soon in the pipes too. By the time anyone works that out, Ruby is pretty much alone. And she’s not good on her own. Scared, thirsty (desperately thirsty), she has to adapt to a life where pretty much everyone she knew is now dead – and where some of those who have survived are the last people she would want to share the post-apocalypse with.
I beetled through this book. Bergin’s version of the end of the world is not completely unfamiliar, but it’s strung together with a plotline that focuses on chasing the most basic of human needs – something to drink. This drags Ruby into plenty of dark scenes, as the bottled water runs out and that jar of old sauce won’t quench the thirst of everyone who tries to grab it. There’s one particularly horrific scene where people swarm on a public swimming pool. Bergin well understands that no matter how bad things could get, there will always be people around who make it worse.
If the novel has a weakness it’s unfortunately Ruby, who is given a somewhat forced character arc that involves her being rather unpleasantly obnoxious for a good stretch of the second half. I felt a bit alienated by her then, but it all comes good in the end – enough for me to want to check out the second book, anyway.