Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman takes place in Southern California where a drought, Tap-Out, starts to take action. Alyssa and her brother, Garret, experience the effects of this first-hand with their parents missing, house ransacked, and water contaminated. Together, with the help of their next-door neighbor, Kelton, and a fugitive, Jacqui, they embark on a journey to find the bug-out to live out the drought.
When reading this book, I found that it related a great amount to many post-apocalyptic/dystopian books I have read. The only difference is that no fantasy was used in the creation of Dry, making me utterly astonished by how fast it could all escalate, and the numerous problems that grow with these tensions. This thriller keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, anxious to find out what happens next.
A key theme of this book is the ‘What if?’ or ‘Then what?’ that keeps occurring throughout the book. In Jacqui’s pov, the authors describe it as the Void. The ‘call of the void’ correlates to the calling of death. Something she lives by, which is used towards the end of the book in her character development.
The only problems I had with this book is with the characters. Alyssa had barely any personality. Her character focused on the role of an older sister, and not much else. In addition, there was no evident character-development. For Kelton, his character completely changed after his brother’s death. Which is understandable, but made it hard to grasp his personality. Of course, throughout the book he was labeled as a ‘know-it-all’ but that’s all. Maybe this change in character is due to the emotional effect of the death which was not described enough. I wish the authors could dive deeper into the ‘what if’ he shot his neighbors, or ‘what if’ he stayed with his family. Instead, this was ignored and Kelton became a volatile bomb. For Jacqui, she has always had it rough, before and after the Tap-Out. She’s street smart, shown when facing Dalton, and book smart, known for her high SAT score. Her fatal flaw is that she portrays herself untrustworthy, and because of that she clashes with Alyssa often. If anyone, she has the most character development even if it was rushed towards the end. I may be biased, however, because I personally feel like she was not appreciated enough throughout the book. She doesn’t go around boasting about what she sacrifices, and others think lowly of her. She sacrificed her antibiotics for a complete stranger, and drove a group of kids across Southern California for a gift that wasn’t even worth it. In addition, Garret’s innocence was sacrificed in these events. Scenes such as him blaming himself for Kingston’s disappearance, wanting someone to get shot, experiencing death first hand, a gun pointed to his head, and almost dying from illness/getting shot by his sister were all examples of what this drought had done to them.
Nonetheless, the book was very well-written, and told the stories of citizens that had to sacrifice many of their morals in search of water. It portrayed people that resorted to violence and criminal acts, as kids who were once filled with innocence. For example, the photo of brothers at Disneyland. One of the many ways the Shusterman brothers used symbolism in their writing.
If there were a lesson that could be brought from this book, I’d say it is to take immediate action and awareness of problems in the world, and to not take anything/anyone for granted.