The drought – or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. Until the taps run dry.
Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbours and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.
Ok, confession time – Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman has been on my tbr shelf since, like, before it came out. I finally picked it up this week and read it for my very first time at Walker Books Australia’s YA book club. This was such a great pick for a book club – there is so much to talk about!
It is set in California, in a time that could absolutely be now – his isn’t one of those one thousand years in the future books, everything felt very recognisable to today’s world. As you can see from the blurb/plot summary up there, the story centres around what happens to Alyssa’s world and community under the stress of a natural disaster – in this case drought. The thing about reading a dystopian book set pretty much now about society falling apart under a disaster is that it feels a lot more real now than it would have pre-pandemic. There are descriptions in here of hoarding of and fights over essentials in supermarket, and of bare supermarket shelves, and we’ve all seen that for real, which just made this book that bit more unsettling than it would have been before.
Throughout the book we see both the best and the worst of humanity – and the way that the best and worst can co-exist in one person, depending on the pressures they are under at the time. There are a bunch of instances in the book where characters are determined to just look out for themselves/their family, but just can’t resist showing compassion to strangers.
I thought the way the narrative unfolded was really effective – we experience the story through the alternating perspectives of the main characters, with snapshots from the broader world inserted between chapters every so often. I felt like this was such a clever way to give more information about the bigger context of the disaster than the main characters would have, without having to have them watch news reports on tv or something.
While I found reading this one an intensely uneasy experience, i also can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it. It is so well written, and there is a wonderful balance of humour and hope to counter the bleakness of everything else that’s going on.
Also, I have to say it was so wonderful to be chatting with a book club again! I’ve really missed my IRL book club friends and the team at Walker did such a great job running this one! I already can’t wait for the next one!
Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
Out now from Walker Books Australia.
Source: I received a free copy for review from WBA when this one first came out (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Near future. climate disaster, dystopian YA