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Dry – Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shuterman – Review

Water has been scarce for a while in California. Precautions have been put into place, fines for watering your lawn, pools outlawed and a number of other things; but it is not enough. When the pipes go dry, the world gets a glimpse at true human nature. Alyssa’s parents go missing. She and her brother go looking for them but can they survive this new world?

“…if there’s one thing I know about the news, it’s that it decides for most people – including the federal government – what is and what isn’t important.

Alyssa, pg. 23

I am always up for a good dystopian story. I don’t know why but the idea of watching the way humanity reacts and behaves when the rules are gone is fascinating to me. I love human psychology. As a species we think we have everything in order. We think that because we are on top of the food chain that we can manage anything that comes at us. But within days of a crisis we see the real side of human nature. In the end we see that we are all animals and our primary instinct is to survive. Humans are just like animals, we want our species to make it to the next year and we will do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

I enjoyed this premise. I have read a number of dystopian novels and seen a number of shows but I haven’t see one that surrounds running out of water. Usually water is part of the survival series but it is never the thing that is missing. (Note: My timing of reading this book was very ironic because we have had rain every other day for about 2 months now where I live).

I thought the details about how this crisis would take place was well done. I found myself feeling the desperation and the thirst the characters felt. I am not an expert on what happens when you are dying of thirst but I felt like the progression of everything made sense and worked.

(Spoilers for the end, skip to the next “What I thought was okay” section if you want to avoid ending spoilers).

The end of this book was my favorite part. In these dystopian novels it is always about how the world finds itself broken and about the rebuilding process. They tend to end with the characters beginning to find a new normal. The world they knew is gone and not coming back. The government is gone, law and order idea is gone and they are literally starting by farming and beginning life again.

This book was different. It actually ended with the Tap Out being solved and civilization being restored. People are back to living in their homes, normal way of life is back. Things go back to the way we know them. School is back in session and law and order is the same as we have always known it.

There is hope here. Hope that even after a disaster like this one there is the possibility that we can have our lives back. We don’t have to see the end of all humanity in an event like this one. I liked that because it was nice to see that the world doesn’t always have to implode after something like a water shortage.

There is also commentary on the way people live their lives now. They have to live with the decisions they made to survive. They have to confront the darker sides of themselves and now live in civilization with a that knowledge.

“The question is, can you forgive them for being human anyway?”

Kelton, pg. 150

I have to say that much of this book as predictable. I think that is mostly because I have read so many of these stories. There is a formula to this whole idea. The crisis happens, people begin to break down and then things enter into chaos. Our characters then have to fight to survive that chaos and this new version of humanity.

I felt like I knew where this was going the whole time. I wasn’t surprised by anything but the ending. There were some interesting twists, such as having Kelton be from a doomsday prepper family but there wasn’t too much more. I wasn’t captured by the story as much as I wanted to be.

“Sometimes it’s the monsters who survive.”

Alyssa, pg. 351

I did not connect to any of the characters as much as I would have liked to. Alyssa was alright but I didn’t find myself loving her. Kelton teetered on the edge of interesting. He was supposed to be this tough guy who is broken down and rebuilt but there was just something missing from him. I didn’t love him or hate him. I just was indifferent to him.

I think all the characters would have been more interesting if we had gotten a deeper look at their changing personalities. We start to see them decide to do things in order to survive. But we never dive deep into that thought process or have time where they are contemplating what they are doing. In the end we see people reflecting on their choices but I wanted to see our core group be truly affected by having to do what they did to survive. Instead it gets a bit glossed over instead.

I gave this book 3 stars. While I enjoyed it I think I would have been more captured by it if the characters had more depth to them.

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