Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: 9/24/13
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Paper ARC, from Epic Reads
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Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
In Not A Drop To Drink, Mindy McGinnis has envisioned a futuristic United States in which access to water is strictly controlled. The population has been decimated by diseases including (but not limited to) cholera due to overcrowding in cities, the aforementioned water situation, and the strain on resources. In terms of YA dystopian “explanations,” I found McGinnis’ world to be very real and very possible, especially the lack of antibiotics once people were forced to move into organized cities and the demand for medication relentlessly skyrocketed. Access to water and medications in this future is controlled and everything is expensive, so a majority of people cannot afford very much of either. I was actually reminded of the Japanese tsunami a few years back, when news outlets were speculating that radiation could affect people on the west coast of the US and they advised people to take potassium iodine tablets. After (no joke) a day, you couldn’t find them anywhere in the whole Seattle area and Amazon suppliers had shipping estimates of months. The plausibility of the water shortage was scarily real to me, and that is one aspect that lends to the overall success of this novel--it doesn't depend on the fantastical to wow the reader, and it doesn't need to.
From the very first few pages, I was completely interested in this story. Lynn, a teenage girl, and her mother live alone in a house by a pond, from which they gather water to purify daily. Both Lynn and her mother are hard workers and absolutely capable of living in isolation, and when the occasional person shows up to steal water from their pond, they have no hesitation in shooting them down to protect their claim. They don't mess around, and neither does McGinnis with her sparse, frank text, which feels very intentional and totally works for the story. The scope of the setting is small but the containment made the narrative more exciting because it honestly feels like you are sitting on that roof with Lynn or hauling that water bucket up the hill with her. It was refreshing to read about a girl surviving instead of a girl who needs to bring down a widespread government conspiracy, a girl who must save the entire human race, or a girl with two (or more) different love interests. While reading, I tried to think of other experiences that give me the same feeling as reading this book, or ways to describe it to potential readers. Here are a few:
1. You might like this book if you like The Walking Dead and think you'd enjoy reading about living on Season Two's farm setting.
2. You read and enjoyed Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors series, but wished one or more of the characters were more useful and logical.
3. When you started reading Blood Red Road by Moira Young, you were excited about Saba and what might happen before she ever left home.
4. You love reading books that involve surviving in the wild and don't mind reading more about the day-to-day rather than tons of movement and epic action sequences.
About two-thirds of the way through the novel, I found myself wondering where the plot was going. It kind of meanders around, not that I minded, but I was worried the author would try to throw it all at the reader at once: a romance develops, a few additional (and intriguing) characters show up, and there is a lot of back-loaded action. Though the pacing was a bit off, when all was said and done, I was satisfied with the ending point and the amount of resolution and I think most readers will feel the same way. There were a few surprises that I (perhaps embarrassingly) didn't see coming and a somewhat cheesy epilogue but overall there was very little about this novel that I didn't enjoy. If I could make one wish, it would be that the city in the novel would've been left as a current and real American city. "Entargo" makes the entire book less serious to me as it reminds me of all the dystopian YA with fictional names for everything, and I really did not understand the point of doing this since nearly everything else in the book is so recognizable. I wish Not a Drop to Drink could just own its realism and call Cincinnati or Cleveland or Pittsburgh or wherever by its name. Regardless, it is really exciting to me to read such a successful debut work. I hope McGinnis will come through with more adventures in years to come.
The Book Geek: "I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes survival stories, strong female characters, and realism."
Jenna Does Books: "At the end of the day, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is one of the most realistic and believable speculative future stories I have ever read. "
Chick Loves Lit: "This is a MUST. BUY. for dystopian fans, fans of true gritty worlds, fans of fast page turners."