Aquifer / by Jonathan Friesen. 3.1.2016

Zondervan ISBN 9780310731825

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

In a dystopian world where emotions are monitored, Luca has never thrived. Though he wants to fit in, it isn’t possible. Luca is expected to inherit his father’s job—as a hero. Once a year, Luca’s father travels through an underground labyrinth, the way known only to his family, to ensure fresh water on the surface. Protectors of the Aquifer, the last fresh water source in the world, demand him to return annually to discuss the water.

The day before his voyage, Luca’s dad judges a group of “criminals,” including one of Luca’s classmates. A government man lies to the civilians about his ruling, condemning them to death. Knowing all were pronounced innocent, Luca saves his classmate. Then, Luca awaits his father’s return from the Aquifer. His father doesn’t arrive on time, and the governing Council lies to cover their hero’s disappearance.

When Luca discovers the Council is trying to become heroes by killing him and his father, he flees to safety—to the Aquifer. He discovers the truths about his father’s disappearance and the real story of the Aquifer. Led by a voice of peace, he returns to surface chaos. Will he listen to the voice and bring peace?

Luca develops from timid kid into hero, becoming more likable with each page. Jonathan Friesen does a great job using dialogue and action to move the plot forward. There are moments when the mood darkens with ideas of suicide, mild violence, and discussions of fate, but the plot progresses quickly to lighten the mood and hold the reader’s attention. This world seems real enough that it could be our future, but it is fantastic enough to feel fictional. One major theme emphasizes the power of words, both encouraging and deceptive.

Engaging, active writing allows readers to dive into Aquifer. Mystery from the outset lures readers into uncovering the truth with Luca. The final resolution leaves readers satisfied and may lead people to see things in their lives they have taken for granted.

Rebecca A. Schriner, CLJ