Published: Oct. 2018
The drought in California has seemingly lasted forever, but no one expected the taps to run dry–except, perhaps, for Alyssa’s weird prepper neighbors. But now Alyssa’s neighborhood is descending into chaos as one-time friends turn on each other for one life-saving sip of water. With her parents missing, Alyssa, her brother, and some unlikely allies set out on their own to find one drop to drink.
Dry is a fast-paced thriller that raises ethical questions about the impact of humans on the environment even as it takes readers on a whirlwind journey across California and into the darkness of human hearts. Though the book clearly feels itself relevant, the story never becomes overbearingly earnest. Rather, it allows the action to make readers question themselves, both about whether they could survive a tap-out and about how they might be contributing to one.
As with Scythe, Dry switches among multiple perspectives in order to examine the effects of a major drought on the lives of vastly different individuals. Alyssa is an “average” teen, just living her life with her parents and younger brother until the taps run dry. Keldon, her next door neighbor, is the son of preppers, widely educated in survivalist skills and in the use of weapons. They are joined throughout the book by characters ranging from the self-sacrificial to the fearful and selfish to the depraved and ugly. The Tap-Out, like any life-or-death situation, apparently reveals the true selves of individuals, raising some to heroes and revealing others to be little more than rabid animals.
Intertwined with questions of how individuals react to hardship is the message that things are getting dire: climate change is real and it could have devastating effects. The story never says so explicitly, but the fact is that the water has run out and there are constant reminders that everything done to prevent such a catastrophe was too little too late. Readers cannot help but wonder how close the real world is to a similar situation, and how their own wastefulness, ignorance, or apathy may be contributing to one. Chillingly, however, the book ends on a positive note, with no real solutions presented and no guarantee that the Tap-Out will not happen again, either in fiction or in fact.
Dry will appeal to fans of Neal Shusterman, as well as to readers who love thrillers, survival stories, and post-apocalyptic literature. With its fast-pace and provocative premise, it is a must-read YA.