In a flood-plagued future Europe, a have and a have-not fall in love.
Horrible storms and flooding have resulted in the division of the former Low Countries into Dry areas (populated by the rich and privileged) and Wet areas (characterized by high poverty and risk). Blonde, white Nina Bradshaw is a governor’s daughter, about as Dry as it gets. The plot falters out of the gate, as readers are expected to believe that such an elite girl is, after a flood destroys her school, sent to a dangerous Wet school in a poor area. Lucky for her, there’s a handsome bad boy, brown-skinned Max Zeitoun, for her to have an immediate connection with. A teacher that pairs them up for assignments is substituted for relationship development. Nina mourns her sister, killed in that school flood; Max lost his father as well—dark secrets and truths are uncovered, twists right on schedule. During the twists, characters change allegiances with enough frequency and speed to give readers whiplash. Neither character is compelling—Max has violent impulse issues, Nina is oblivious or freezes—and together they form a relationship interesting only in its fumbling physical consummation (which comes after Nina faces sexual assaults). The worldbuilding is flimsy, and the setting frequently lacks descriptive texture and grounding details. The ending is frustratingly opaque.
Themes can’t save a book when plot, characters, and setting don’t hold water. (afterword) (Post-apocalyptic romance. 14 & up)