Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not a Drop to Drink

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

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…
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I'm very much done with the dystopian craze. If I have to read one more story about a Very Special Teen leading a revolution I will start my own (the Catching Fire movie is completely exempt and it was awesome). Luckily, there's been a mini-craze of post-apocalyptic survival stories lately (Ashfall, After the Snow), and since stories like My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves and Island of the Blue Dolphins were some of my favorites in middle school, I'm very happy about this. 

Here's the thing- Lynn isn't bothered about trying to fix the world, save her people, or topple a fascist regime. Lofty goals, all, but our girl has more immediate problems. Water. Namely, the lack of it. She and her mother have spent the last few years grimly holding on to their tiny watersource, while others have sickened, fought, and died for their own. Lynn's mother has a shoot first, ask questions later policy when it comes to strangers (although she does offer them the courtesy of a warning shot- most don't), and she has kept her daughter safe from wild animals, thieves and raiders. The two of them have staked out an efficient existence, spending their days on the roof with their rifles, collecting and purifying water, hunting, and preserving food. Early on in the book though, something happens that rips this routine out from under them and changes Lynn's world forever. 

There's so much about this that works- the bleak rural setting, the life Lynn and her mother have carved out for themselves in a harsh but realistic world, the dialogue (regional but not hokey. YES.), the dystopia- oh, what's that? Did I say this wasn't a dystopia? Yeah I kind of lied. There is a dystopian government, and its workings do shape the plot, but it all happens very much in the background so instead of yet another story of political awakening and credulity-straining rebellion, we get to see what happens to the people on the edge and damn it I've just realized that I like this book because it reminds me of Firefly. It is to the dystopian genre as Firefly is to Star Trek-type sci-fi. Don't go in expecting snark, heroics, and a ragtag crew though, this is a survival story first and foremost. 

The one thing I didn't love was the romance, which didn't always ring true to me. That's a minor quibble though, and the end was surprising enough to leave me satisfied. This is a riveting book, often stark, sometimes emotional, and impossible to put down. Highly recommended. 

(There's a strong possibility that one of the reasons this book worked so well for me was because I mentally cast one character as Samantha Ferris, and another as Jim Beaver. Supernatural junkie right here). 


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