Published: September 24th 2013 by HarperTeen
Format: ARC, 320 pages
Genres: Post Apocalyptic
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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 ...
This is a post apocalyptic world like no other. Not a Drop to Drink is a book concerned with survival, pure and simple, and isn’t confused by an over-controlling government or vampires or revolutions.
Not a Drop to Drink follows two women and tells of their struggle to survive in an isolated backwater town in the US. It’s concerned with their limited sphere in the world, and is told through the eyes of Lynn, who has grown up in a world where water is scarce, and whatever is available isn’t safe to drink without purification. She can’t imagine a world that doesn’t involve a daily battle to stay alive. Her mother has brought her up to be tough, resilient, but as the outside world slowly encroaches on their tenuous sanctuary, readers can see that the women aren’t as invincible as they’ve convinced themselves. I think it’s one of the strongest messages in the book: that no matter how well Lynn and her mother were doing on their own, there are still good people out there who could band together and help one another to survive.
I like Lynn a lot, not only because of her can-do attitude, but because of her willingness to learn and adapt to changes. She isn’t so stubborn as to refuse help when she knows she needs it, something her mother could have learnt off her! I also thought it was interesting how much of an innocent she was: she’d only had her mother for company since birth, so if her mother didn’t talk about something, Lynn didn’t know about it. This applied to everything from swear words to basic legacies of the world of her mother’s youth, and somewhat hilariously, romance.
I think this story-world is so interesting, especially when I got to learn more about it through Eli and Neva. They’re refugees from the nearest large city, and they bring with them an alien perspective where water can still be bought and comes out from faucets, but that safety comes at a terrible price. I love the interactions between the ‘city’ and ‘country’ people because at first they seem so different from one another and it leads to some humourous situations, but it eventually becomes clear their similarities are far more important than their differences. I also just really like Eli, he’s so nice and respectful and kind. YA needs more boys like Eli.
I kept waiting for Lynn to abandon her constant struggles for survival when Eli showed up – expecting her to moon over the boy and blush and stammer her way through their attraction. But the romance is handled perfectly and I got the sense that every single character understood how dire their situation is. Not that the moments between them aren’t sweet, because they are, but it’s honestly just refreshing to read about two people who can behave in a rational manner with hormones rushing through them.
I was pleasantly surprised at the world-building in Not a Drop to Drink. After a large chunk of the book flew by with nary an explanation for what, exactly, had caused this world to come to be, I had resigned myself to never finding out. I was gratified that the author did eventually provide an explanation, although in retrospect, it doesn’t feel germane to the story. Like I said, the novel isn’t concerned with much that’s happening outside of the little area surrounding Lynn’s pond, so while the back-story is there to fill in the blanks, the story itself would have held up reasonably well without it (although it would have proved frustrating to many readers).
My only real disappointment in the story is the ending. It felt a bit rushed, and although I wasn’t expecting a happy ever after, I was hoping for a bit more resolution than what is offered. However, the epilogue made me smile and left me hopeful for the future of these characters whom I had come to love.
Not a Drop to Drink is a great read, especially satisfying because of what it brings to an over-saturated genre. Readers tired of the sameness of post-apocalyptic fiction would enjoy this book because of the new ways in which it handles survival in a disaster struck world. I’ll be looking forward to reading more stories by McGinnis in the future: she’s proven to be a skillful storyteller in her début.