Mindy McGinnis’s gripping debut novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, takes place in a frontier-like world where clean, usable water is worth more than gold, and the fight for survival is fierce.
“Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond, the sweet smell of water luring the man to be picked off like the barn swallows that dared to swoop in for a drink.” Now 16, Lynn, the novel’s protagonist, has never spoken to another person besides her mother, and she has no interest in the world beyond her pond and the nearby fields and forest. Her days are spent gathering wood, purifying water and keeping watch from the roof of her house with her mother and her rifle. Human beings are not to be trusted, and one warning shot is all you get in a country where people simply take what they need to survive.
"I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a thrilling, fast-paced and entirely different dystopian novel that will, at the very least, leave you contemplating your own survival skills."
When Lynn’s mother is killed suddenly, Lynn feels bereft and terrified that she will not be able to survive alone. She is surprised and confused when her crippled neighbor across the field, Stebbs, offers his advice and support. When Lynn stumbles across three refugees from the city, Stebbs convinces her to help them rather than stand by and watch them starve. Fighting her instincts, Lynn takes in five-year-old Lucy, whose innocence and trusting nature changes Lynn’s perception of the world. Lynn also befriends Lucy’s teenage uncle, Eli, and a romance develops, as he gently introduces her to flirting and kissing. Lynn is shocked by the feelings of compassion and protectiveness that she develops for her surrogate family, and when raiders threaten everything she holds dear, Lynn realizes that simply surviving is no longer enough for her.
Fans of classic wild-west stories, as well as dystopia, will love this quietly fierce story of survival. Be warned though, this book has just as many heart-wrenching, cringe-inducing, stomach-churning plot twists as The Hunger Games or “The Walking Dead.” McGinnis paints a stark and chilling picture of a world without water and the basic human instincts that can overcome compassion and diplomacy. Despite the fact that this is a young adult novel, McGinnis does not shy away from subjects like death, rape and starvation. Instead she contrasts the brutality of survival with the humanity that Lynn develops through her relationship with Lucy. While I was slightly disappointed in the ending, which I found to be corny and rushed, I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a thrilling, fast-paced and entirely different dystopian novel that will, at the very least, leave you contemplating your own survival skills.
Reviewed by Alice Dalrymple on September 27, 2013