Not a Drop to Drink
Genre: Dystopia, YA
Publication date: September 24th 2013
by Katherine Tegen Books
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….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
This is a story about survival in a harsh, harsh world. It’s not an action packed dystopian. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. It’s the journey of a young girl who’s discovering the ugly truths, but also the beautiful roots, of humanity.
Lynn has been raised inside a house with only her mother by her side. She was raised hard, and she was raised cold. Everybody is the enemy. Their pond is their only life source, so they must guard it with their lives. This is a world where drinkable water is extremely rare and not obtained without exhausting effort. Lynn and her mother have been living a hard, merciless life. I could immediately feel the weight they held on their shoulders. The hard edges they had to build around themselves to survive is amazingly sad, and the loneliness becomes a palpable entity around them. It’s a truly desolate life in an ugly world. One that is unfortunately all too realistic, which is what makes these types of stories the most tragic. From the animal attacks to the scavengers, to Lynn’s character after facing what one should never have to, it brims with shocking truths. This is the kind of dystopian that makes you feel ashamed for ever complaining about trivial things.
It’s not a story with a heart-pounding plot, however. Some may find it too slow for their taste. Personally, I found the gradual pace was what gave it its power. It’s really about growing up with the odds stacked against you. Every day, Lynn faces fears of running out of water, of being attacked by animals, of not being able to defend her house – or even herself – from heartless scavengers. The atmosphere brims with a constant threat. This is what gave the book its life. I did expect more to actually happen overall, but my full attention was glued to these pages regardless.
Inside this picturesque setting are remarkable characters who walk its plains. Lynn, our main character, was raised to have a thick skin. She can shoot an intruder without a second glance, without knowing if he even deserved the bullet for that matter. And don’t think she’s broken up about taking someone else’s life, either. To her, these people are threats that must be eliminated. They are the enemy, period. This made her sort of impenetrable, yet I still found myself connecting to her on many levels. I could feel her strength, her need to survive above everything else. This was ingrained in her character and it made me just as sad as it made me proud. Early on in the book her life changes quite abruptly, but this was the beginning of a small crack in this shell of hers. She soon meets other survivors who become big players in this novel. For the first time in her life, Lynn finds friendship, love, and the courage to share a piece of her heart with others. I found this change in her admirable, and so, so deserving. She really has such a huge heart. She just needed someone. Stebbs is the father figure who’s the voice of reason and also highly capable. Lucy is a little girl who you can’t help but fall in love with. Eli is the first boy to make her blush. His presence gives the book a mild dose of romance that is barely there, just enough to offer the romantic element this story needed.
Arrestingly atmospheric with an unflinching writing style, Not a Drop to Drink is one dystopian that stands out among many. It’s a cruel and greedy world we live in, Lynn is seeing it at its worst.