Not a Drop to Drink
By Mindy McGinnis
September 24, 2013
Ages 14 and up
Katherine Tegen Books
Reviewed: ebook/ARC from Publisher
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.
That is one word that can be used to describe NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis. With that said, when thinking about prospective futures for our world, the future that I hope never happens is the one described within this book. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered a novel that invoked the same desperate emotions that I had previously experienced while reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Article 5 by Kristen Simmons. NOT A DROP TO DRINK will certainly appeal to fans of those novels, in addition to readers who enjoyed Blood Red Road by Moira Young.
If you can’t tell already, based on the selection of books I compare it to above, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is a difficult book to read. But it is a brilliant book, guys. So very brilliant.
This is another word that can be used to describe NOT A DROP TO DRINK. Suffice to say, the novel’s synopsis does not do justice to the contents within the novel – and honestly, I think this is a good thing. I did not expect the unsettling mood that permeated every page of this story – a story about loss, about survival of the fittest and about those fragile little things that give one hope. I had no idea how terrifying Lynn’s word would be, as secluded as she was in her home on the plains.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. In a world where water is a rare and highly protected resource, anytime she sees someone on her property Lynn basically shoots first and asks questions later. Just going outside to draw some water is dangerous. Not only does she have to keep one eye out for intruders, she also has to keep an eye on the wild animals who would do anything for a drink… and a bite to eat.
The blows that she has to deal with, the burden of her responsibilities and the guilt that weighs her down throughout the novel makes Lynn one of the toughest young women I have ever read about in YA. At first aloof and full of the much-too-serious personality that comes with being a trained killer, Lynn eventually comes out of her shell as she does something she has never done before – not even with her own mother – and that is letting outsiders into her heart and home. The book touches upon topics such as family bonds and what it means to love. There is also a bit of romance, but thankfully that is not a large part of the novel – survival is always at the front of the story.
Want to know a great thing about the characters within NOT A DROP TO DRINK? Each and every one is vividly imagined, their motives are clear and they are perfectly developed throughout the novel. I found myself caring for the characters and was highly invested in their accomplishments and overall safety. I was devastated and completely heartbroken anytime one of them was harmed… or worse. (Word of warning: The body count in NOT A DROP TO DRINK is immense.)
NOT A DROP TO DRINK is not a “travel novel” – as the description would have you think since it states: “one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own…” Lynn’s “journey” is more internal than it is an actual, physical journey. Most of the novel is spent on Lynn’s own lands, though there are times when she ventures beyond. In fact, quite a bit of the novel is spent either in a basement or on a roof (as shown on the cover). No kidding. This is a good thing, though, because the basement is used as a form of protection and the roof is where Lynn scopes out possible intruders. I am sure it doesn’t take much to imagine how unsettling one’s world must be if they are forced to live in their basement or on a rooftop.
But the ending of the novel involves a series of events that do take Lynn far from home. The ending also provides the most unforgiving and unpredictable twist of all. It’s a twist that I appreciate (and personally love) because, as alarming as the ending may be, it is still presented in a manner that coincides with the overall mood and theme of the rest of the novel. I can already imagine the large number of enraged reactions that will surely pop up on the internet as more and more people read NOT A DROP TO DRINK…
At the end of the day, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is one of the most realistic and believable speculative future stories I have ever read. It’s like the opposite of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld in the fact that (well, for one: NOT A DROP TO DRINK is so much better than that god awful movie) it depicts a world that is completely devoid of the number one sustenance of which we depend on: water. What would you do if you owned the only water supply in your region? What if you knew that your limited supply was not permanent? What lengths would you go to retain that supply as well as to survive? All this and more is addressed in one of the best novels I have read this year. (Oh, and did I mention that it is a standalone? Yes, it reads as a standalone novel from beginning to end.)
Mindy McGinnis has found her place on my list of auto-buy authors.