Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, Book #1 in the Not a Drop to Drink series. Source: library. Format: Hardcover, 309 pages, Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2013.
For all the talk of how scarce water is and how hard it is to survive in this dystopian world, Not a Drop to Drink never felt very urgent or desperate. Our protagonist, sixteen-year-old Lynn, has stockpiled enough food and wood in her house for two winters, and she’s got her own pond that she guards with her rifle. Her neighbor, Stebbs, has his own underground well. Yes, disease is common and scary because of the contaminated water sources, but even though one of the characters, a girl named Lucy, gets viciously sick, it’s not because of the dirty water. What I’m trying to get at is that not a lot actually happens–especially concerning the scarcity of clean water.
This is a survival story that is very character driven. Lynn’s mother, Laura, who is almost always just referred to as “Mother”, dies not very far in, as I predicted. It’s supposed to be Lynn’s story and how she survives and protects herself, so Mother had to go. Though the method of her death seemed a little random, especially when the killer never showed up ever again. Anyway, after the loss of her mother, Lynn befriends her neighbor, a kind man named Stebbs. A while later, Lynn encounters Eli, Lucy, and Neva struggling to live down by the unreliable stream. Eli persuades Lynn to take care of Lucy while he tries to take care of the pregnant and very fragile Neva, the wife of Eli’s dead brother. That’s essentially the book, with some bad guys thrown in–and ending that is absolutely crazy and a bit surprising. The ending did fit the book and I was actually glad it wasn’t a happy, fairy tale ending.
Not a Drop to Drink goes by very quickly, but a little more than halfway through I realized that it was no longer interesting me. I liked Lynn–she’s totally bad-ass and does everything that will ensure her safety, even if it means calmly taking people out with a shot to the head. She was very intense and extreme, but I understood her actions. I loved Stebbs and wish Lynn had been more open to him; he could have been a potential father figure. Eli, Lucy, and Neva weren’t very interesting to me, and the “romance” between Lynn and Eli was kind of laughable.
This book is very grim and I would have liked some more back story on why the water started to run out and what the world’s society has become. The story focused too tightly on just Lynn’s worries when it could have really expanded to how other people and the cities and towns were faring. All in all, Not a Drop to Drink is an intriguing concept that could have been improved upon so much more.