Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com
Not a Drop to Drink has been on my to-read list for several months, and I was so excited to finally have a chance to read this. It gets all kinds of rave reviews, and so I'd been dying to get to it. Turns out, I thought it was... well, bleak. Heart-wrending.
It's not gruesome, or dark. It's not un-uplifting. But it is a novel that doesn't pull many punches. Not a Drop to Drink paints a picture of a country without much water left, and what happens when people have to fight (including, at times, one another) to survive. Their existences are solitary and suspicious, the land stark and bare, the animal populations sparse and dangerous, and nearly everything and everyone is a danger.
The book follows Lynn, a teenaged girl who lives alone with her mother. They have a home, enough food to feed themselves, as long as they're able to get it preserved in time, and a pond. The pond is what makes them vulnerable, and they spend the majority of each day watching it, guns at the ready. They have a neighbor, Stebbs, who lives a fair piece off, but they never speak to him. They're isolated, by choice. And then everything implodes.
The world McGinnis creates is extraordinarily unforgiving, and yet her characters have a sort of tenderness, when they're able to relax enough to let it show. When they're able to form bonds to one another, they care deeply, and share a strong loyalty. Their lives are often tragic, but filled with intense emotion. Less a story about physical survival, Not a Drop is really more a story about learning how to survive, emotionally, under such extraordinary physical circumstances.
Moreover, McGinnis is a good, strong writer with a clear voice, something that's lacking, sometimes, in a debut novel. There are all kinds of lovely passages, e.g.:"Her affection and gratitude were too subtle and burned away under the harsh light of day. But in the familiar darkness of the basement she let her unspoken feelings pour out of her like water and hoped that somehow the flow would reach him while he slept, and he would know without her having to say. "
The book was hard to put down, but difficult to read, if that makes sense. Because I cared so much about her characters, it was tough to bear what she was putting them through. And in the end, I liked it so much I felt like it deserved at least four stars.
In any event, I think it's a book you have to make up your mind about, yourself. I ended up downgrading it a bit for language. There is a lot of it, so consider yourselves warned. I would not recommend it for younger teens. 3.5 stars.