I wish I could say that Wanderer added something new to the dystopian YA genre; but I have to admit that I felt that I had read variations of this story several times now. Sheltered but rebellious girl in safe utopian society meets rough and tumble dystopian apocalypse survivor and they fight corruption inside and out. I could create a list of novels that meet that criteria in the last five years alone (e.g., Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi and the Dust Chronicles by Maureen McGowan). Even the name and the cover are bland and generic.
Story: the world is dry and devastated except in a pyramid city where water is carefully welled. Essa lives in the pyramid and its tightly controlled society. Kean scrapes a living with the Wanderers who move between watering holes. When a ‘season’ occurs – heavy rain and hurricane-like winds – the rebellious Essa and valiant Kean will meet and have to work together to survive.
The writing is straightforward and the plot moves decently, though it takes too long for the characters’ backstories to develop and the situation finally causes them to cross paths. Unfortunately, this hits too many tropes: Essa being rebellious against society (for no reason), the utopian society being as rotten as the outside lawlessness, heavily constricted/ruled citizens to induce ignorance (for no apparent reason), a dustbowl outside (I’d like a dystopian where the plants take over!), girl/boy saving each other and enacting revolution together despite not really being very effective/knowledgeable/useful other than having a special gift suitable for saving the world, and the bad guy pouring out all his nefarious plans and/or protagonists sneaking around and chancing upon the perfect conversation to reveal the dastardly plot. About the only good thing here is that at least one of the ‘bad guys’ didn’t appear to be evil or bear any malice. But yeah, the other bad guys were stinky, evil, greedy, ugly – because inside ugliness has to be on the outside too.
Something just didn’t connect with Wanderer. Not the terrible covers, not the tired plot, and not the rehashed characters. But that isn’t to say this is terribly written or can’t be enjoyed. Those that have read the aforementioned Rossi or McGowan books will likely find Wanderer a decent read as well. For me, I want something more original and distinct. Reviewed as an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.