Set in an all-too-near future, Dry by Neal Shusterman is a dystopian novel that will leave you thirsting for water and wary of every single individual you meet. I flew threw this novel, wanting to know what happened, and I wasn’t disappointed. Also, I wasn’t sure until the very end if this was a standalone but it seems to be and I’m so excited!
For background, California is struck by a massive drought, called the Tap-Out, that has seemingly been on the horizon for many years but also goes complete overnight. The taps have run dry, the stores are sold out, and people are thirsty. That’s where we meet our characters. Alyssa, a 16-year-old California resident, and her 10-year-old brother, Garrett. Then there’s her crazy prepper neighbor, Kelton. Along the way they meet two more teens seeking water, Jacqui and Henry, who both have backstories and motivations to unpack. When Alyssa’s parents don’t come home from the sanitation tanks, she and Kelton team up to try and handle the situation. Then they meet Jacqui, and then Henry, and by the end of it, you’re not sure who is going to come out alive and who is going to kill one of their compatriots. There are lies, secret crushes, long-forgotten misdeeds, and power struggles galore. Who will drive the truck? How will they get to the bug-out? Who keeps the gun? And what about all the helpless, and not so helpless, people they pass along the way?
I’ve never read anything by Neal Shusterman before, but I’ve heard great things and now I know why. I love dystopias and speculative fiction and this one is very well done. It doesn’t speculate too wildly or cast us too far into the future, which roots every scene in a recognizable reality, making it even scarier. It could be us in 5 years. It could be Flint in 6 months. It’s terrifying to see what people can become in times of crisis and while you hope that would never be you, you can never be sure.
The characters are really fascinating here. The main characters of Alyssa and Kelton actually have less depth, in my opinion, than some of the side characters, but they were good anchors for the story. I didn’t love how often the POV switched and the way it would be 39) Kelton and then two pages later 40) Alyssa and then eight pages later 41)Henry. I would have preferred just different chapters with a larger break, but I know I’m picky.
Overall, I think people are really going to like this book. I’ve heard it’s already being optioned for a movie and I would definitely head to the local AMC and check it out on opening weekend.
When Dry hits the shelves on October 2, 2018, pick it up wherever books are sold.