Goodreads Summary: Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.Goodreads / Amazon
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.
Genre: Apocalyptic, young adult
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
First Line: "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."
Favorite Quote: "'There's a famous line from a poem about the ocean,' Mother had finally said to end the discussion, 'Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.'"
I'm almost always drawn to books that have a synopsis along these lines. Although I'd never want to be in situations as dire as the characters in such stories frequently find themselves in, reading about them has always been interesting to me. Whether it's the aftermath of a volcano eruption like in Ashfall, tons of natural disasters like in Monument 14 or a quieter issue like in this novel, I'm pretty much all over it. The idea of having very limited drinking water is a scary one, and I was really hoping this book would deliver the amount of grittiness the summary promised. Thankfully, I came away from Not A Drop To Drink fairly satisfied. It pretty much was everything I expected it to be, and I love how well the cover matches the story.
Almost immediately after starting the book, I realized just how bleak everything was. Most of it takes place in basically the middle of nowhere. Lynn and her mother live in a two story house with a pond, which has been keeping them alive for quite some time. Since so much depended on keeping their water supply safe, a lot of their time is spent sitting on the roof and guarding it. Consequently, Lynn became a hardened girl who survived life but never actually had any time to live it. I admired how hard they worked together in the beginning, but I also wished they had some time to just relax. It wasn't possible, of course, because there were in fact people (and animals) that tried to steal what was theirs. Lynn was a little difficult to connect with as the protagonist at first because she seemed so detached, but hints of personality shone through once in a while, so thankfully I didn't remain neutral towards her.
Not A Drop To Drink doesn't really pull any punches when it comes to surviving in a harsh environment. When people came to steal, Lynn and her mother often killed whoever it was without a second thought. It was a little hard to swallow, and it was also kind of sad because that's probably how it would be in real life. People just don't have any common courtesy in this world anymore, because everyone is so focused on just living that they have to stoop to doing a lot of bad things just to make it happen. You can't give someone water to drink because if you do you won't have any and you'll die. Tough decisions must be made, although I really appreciated it when Lynn started consulting people who wandered her way before shooting them. For a debut novel, the writing itself was pretty good. It wasn't overly flowery or descriptive, it was just to the point. Lynn's mother's favorite saying in this book was "it is what it is" and really that's the best way to describe how this is written.
Although there were definitely a lot of dark, depressing things going on, there are some light moments in the story too. My favorite person in Not A Drop To Drink was probably Stebbs, as I really enjoyed the scenes he was in. He wasn't necessarily a riot, but he did make me smile a few times and I liked how genuine he seemed. If something was heartwarming or funny, chances are he was around at the time. The other side characters were interesting. It seems like whenever I read about young children in YA books, kids between the ages of three and seven, they come across as somewhat unrealistic. Usually because they're just a little too smart, but sometimes it's just something I can't put my finger on. Lucy seemed like an average seven year old, though, and I actually really liked her. The romantic aspect of the plot never becomes the main focus here, and I didn't expect it to. I was actually kind of surprised that Lynn started liking Eli at first, simply because he's nothing like her and doesn't really have the skills necessary to survive outside the water-supplied city in their world. But at the same time, Eli was the first real boy Lynn has ever really seen, so it seemed natural for her to be at least a little interested. There was also the fact that he seemed to make her happy, even introduced her to the concept of flirting. Since Lynn was so used to being almost robotic about her way of life, it's not that surprising that she liked being around him.
The plot creeps along kind of slowly, but I never really minded. McGinnis threw in a twist I didn't expect only about thirty pages from the ending, so that was cool. It was brave of them to try to do something about the villains of the story since they were outnumbered and everything (although I kind of wish I could undo he death of a certain character). The epilogue confused me a little at first, because obviously it was suddenly a ways into the future and a lot more people were around. Once I got what was going on, though, I figured it was a pretty good way to end the book. But if I were Lynn, I don't think I would have made peace with that big coyote. Overall, I'm really glad I got to read this, and I'm going to keep an eye out for McGinnis' next novel.
Books in this series:
All Things Urban Fantasy
Beauty and the Bookshelf
Books, Bones and Buffy