Monday, September 23, 2013

Title: Not a Drop to Drink
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Series: n/a
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.


This book. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I put it down last night.  It invaded my dreams.  I even woke up pondering alternate endings. It's gritty. It's honest. And it. Is. Brutal.

I thought I was done with dystopians, but Mindy McGinnis has proven that there are still fresh voices to be heard in a genre rife with copycats.  I mentioned in a previous post that this novel seemed like a mash-up of Blood Red Road and Drought, but I was only at the halfway point then.  Having finished the book, I can admit that although the tone and vernacular resembled that of Blood Red Road -- though not quite to that extreme -- and the limited availability of fresh water reminded me of Drought, Not a Drop to Drink is its own story.

Things that set this book apart:  no messy love triangle, fantastic world-building, a headstrong heroine, and a strong emphasis on the fear-inducing aspects of living in a dystopian state where water is scarce.  Sure, several of these components can be found in other dystopian novels, but how often do you find them all in one place?  In my own experience, it's not often.

Yes, there is a romantic subplot to this novel.  Yes, it is cute and sweet and heart-breaking.  Lynn is your typical virginal protagonist, but in her defense, she's only ever known Mother and their neighbor Stebbs, and he didn't come around all that much in her first sixteen years.  Not a lot of opportunities to strike up a conversation or flirt, especially since Mother's stance was shoot first, ask questions later.  But tragedy strikes and Lynn is left to make that call herself, and she and Stebbs decide to offer help to the starving family trying to make a home for themselves by the stream.

At first, Lynn's demeanor seems rather harsh and callous, but she only knows what she's been taught.  I enjoyed seeing Lynn's character grow into so much more as she learned from each of her new friends. Stebbs teaches her about kindness.  Lucy teaches her about family.  Eli teaches Lynn about flirting and love. And Neva, she teaches Lynn about sacrifice.  Everything she knows about surviving she already learned from her mother, and she passes that knowledge on to the group.

And they're going to need all the lessons they can stand.  In this rural Ohio setting, the new law of the land appears to be take or be taken.  You have to fight for what you have and you can't be afraid to do what's necessary to survive.  Not a Drop to Drink is set in the not-so-distant future, where our water resources have been depleted and the government is in charge of the limited supply that's left.  It's not so hard to imagine:  we already pay for our water...it would just be a matter of the government telling us we'd have to live inside the city in order to get any of it.  The house Lynn lives in has been in her family for generations, and with the pond on their land, they don't have as much to worry about when it comes to a water source...except protecting it.
"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."
Lynn can shoot a rifle with deadly accuracy.  She can bag a deer and process it herself.  And she can protect her pond when she's the only one left to do it.  But that's a lonely life for a sixteen year old girl.  It's no wonder she took to caring for Lucy like she was her own flesh and blood.  She stubbornly resisted the emotional tug of her conscience, having inherited her hardness from Mother, but there's only so long you can hold out against a sweet little five-year-old.

I think what really sold me on this story was how genuine it felt.  It didn't try to make things seem pretty and nice when they weren't.  It told the truth of how horrible other human beings could be to each other, how hard it is to survive in the wilderness when you're not prepared for it, and how people can come together to make a bad situation better.  It's a violent and cruel world Lynn finds herself in, but she's just surviving the best she can.

This was such a refreshing read, and it will definitely force others to sit up and take notice of this debut author.  I know I'm paying attention now.  And I'm sure I'll be reflecting on this novel for days to come.

Also, I have a newfound appreciation for running water and antibiotics.  I kind of understand where those "preppers" are coming from now.  :P







About the author:

I'm a YA librarian and author, represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary. My YA debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a survival tale set in a world with limited fresh water. It will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins, September 24, 2013.

I'm an avid blogger, posting six days a week to my personal blog, Writer, Writer Pants on Fire, which features interviews with agents, established authors, and debut authors. Learn how they landed their agents, what the submission process is really like, and how it feels when you see your cover for the first time. I also do query critiques every Saturday on the Saturday Slash for those who are brave enough to volunteer.

I also contribute to the group blogs From the Write Angle, Book Pregnant, Friday the Thirteeners, The Lucky 13s, The League of Extraordinary Writers and am a member of the Class of 2k13.

Find Mindy:

Website | BlogTwitter | FacebookGoodreads | YouTube | Tumblr | Pinterest



13 comments:

  1. Argh. I am so bummed that I got turned down on Edelweiss for this book! I was attracted to it because it DOES sound like a bit of Blood Red Road--a series I LOVE-- but I'm happy to hear that it stands on it's own as well. These survivalist/dystopian books kind of freak me out sometimes, because I would be so dead in an environment like that, but I have heard nothing but good things about this book up to this point so I still really want to read it:) Great review, Jen!

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  2. That's definitely my first thought when I saw this book: Blood Red Road and Drought. There's also a book called, Water (?) which pretty much is a story about the lack thereof. I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the brutality you read of.

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  3. I have heard some really great things about this but have not read it myself. Sounds like one I might hav to look into. Great review by the way! really happy you liked it!

    DaydreamerN.blogspot.com

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  4. I need to read this book this week! But for some reason I keep putting it off. Sounds a bit too depressing, even if it is true to life. But I've also read mostly positive reviews so hopefully I will love this one too!

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  5. Love the new look! Really excited to read this one! I just love survival stories. Brutal and all! It's awesome when a book keeps you thinking long past when you finish it.

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  6. I've become a recent convert to dystopia so I look forward to this one. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Great review! I've been seeing this book everywhere in the blogosphere. It's looks so good.

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  8. JEN WE ARE SO ALIGNED. My review for this goes up in... one hour ;).

    Oooh. Book invader. Those always get me. I want to know what your alternate endings were!

    YES the unconventionality of this dystopia is what makes it so awesome! I've never read Blood Red Road or Drought, so I can't attest to what you've said. I can only say that I'm glad it ended up being its own story for you :).

    "Things that set this book apart: no messy love triangle, fantastic world-building, a headstrong heroine, and a strong emphasis on the fear-inducing aspects of living in a dystopian state where water is scarce. Sure, several of these components can be found in other dystopian novels, but how often do you find them all in one place? In my own experience, it's not often." <-- TRUE. If there's a headstrong heroine, somehow she gets trapped in a love triangle. If there's the fear inducing dystopia and headstrong heroine, there's less of HOW that world came to be. etc. etc.

    "Lynn is your typical virginal protagonist, but in her defense, she's only ever known Mother and their neighbor Stebbs, and he didn't come around all that much in her first sixteen years." <-- Hehe, I actually really loved this aspect. I'm not a huge make-heroine-the-virgin fan, but I thought the humor of the situation worked really well ;).

    "I enjoyed seeing Lynn's character grow into so much more as she learned from each of her new friends. Stebbs teaches her about kindness. Lucy teaches her about family. Eli teaches Lynn about flirting and love. And Neva, she teaches Lynn about sacrifice. Everything she knows about surviving she already learned from her mother, and she passes that knowledge on to the group." <-- GOOD POINT. I never thought about how each character individually contributed to Lynn's growth, but you're so right. And maybe that's a bit of why the characters didn't quite feel real to me? They were good for the story and entertaining enough but not quite captivating. Did you feel that way? *keeps reading review*

    "It's not so hard to imagine" <-- No. That's another thing that really set this world apart. Besides symbolic dystopias, there are a lot of action-packed ones, but rarely do any, any of these new YA dystopias seem to have the same raw, gritty realness that this one does.

    "there's only so long you can hold out against a sweet little five-year-old." <--- ooh, woah. I am a fail. I didn't remember her age. For some reason, I think I remember picturing her as being ten, but I'm terrible with details o.O.

    What do you mean by preppers? BUT YES to the genuine feel of the novel and YES to how I'll be thinking about this for a while. As you did, I'd probably rate this 4 stars too but it's so unique and fresh that it's almost NOT to think of the book.

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  9. Oooh, I'd not heard of this one before. It sounds really good. I'm not usually attracted to dystopian fiction but I think I could make an exception!

    Louise
    www.sittingwaitingreading.com

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  10. So. Everyone seemed really excited about this book, but I decided to pass it up on EW. I just don't know if I can do another dystopian. This sounds better than most and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love the books that linger. I may pick this one up...someday. Great review!

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