Review: Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

April 19, 2014

Title: Not A Drop to Drink
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA, Post Apocalytic
Rating: 
Amazon Goodreads | TBD
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.
Water scarcity is a very real possibility in the years to come. In fact, in parts of the world, it's happening right now. I should know, considering that out here we're going through a water crisis as I write this. I dont know if this book would have impacted me any less had I read it any other time, but I think I would be right in saying I couldn't have read it at a better time.

With the sudden influx of dystopian/post-apocalyptic books in the scene for the past couple of years, it's become so that a lot of them run together in your head, with their similar sounding plots, autocratic governments, romantic connections and what not. To find a story which still stands out in this milieu is not something that happens every other day, which is why Not A Drop to Drink seems as rare (to me) as the water around which the story revolves.

The only person Lynn has known all her life is her mother, and the only place she's ever known is the house where she and her mother live, with their pond out front. In a world where water means survival, and anyone would kill for it, Lynn's mother teaches her to do just that: kill if their water is threatened. With water borne diseases on the spread, they cant afford to share their water for fear of it getting contaminated. They guard it fiercely, taking turns standing guard over the property, and if anyone threatening comes too close for comfort, they kill them.

“Do you want to die like this?" Mother had asked, that night and every night since then.
Lynn's answer never changed. "No."
And Mother's response, their evening prayer. "Then you will have to kill.” 

But then Lynn's mother dies, and she's left all alone to face the threats come from all directions. When a small city-bred family set up camp nearby and Stebbs from the house closest to hers starts to make contact, she suddenly has to question her mother's conviction that everyone is an enemy.

I love how McGinnis has portrayed Lynn. She's a very strong girl, but doesn't come with the conventional trappings of such a character. She doesn't possess kickass martial art skills; she's a mighty fine shooter though. She isn't brawny; but she's got an inner mettle made of iron. She isn't worldly and sophisticated; she's got a startling amount of innocence in her, given her upbringing, but it's not to be mistaken for naivety. Her relationship with her mother, though we only get to observe it for a short while, is written so brilliantly, that even though I wasn't all that fond of her mother, my heart ached for Lynn while reading how she struggles to give her a decent farewell.

And that brings me to the characters. Lynn, her mother, Stebbs and Lucy are fleshed out so wonderfully! You truly do grow close with these characters and want them to find happiness and peace. I fell completely in love with Lucy (I actually felt a sense of pride when I read the epilogue), and I cant wait to read her story in In A Handful of Dust. Eli is a great character, I'm sure, but I just didn't feel like I got to know him that well; maybe because he doesn't feature in a lot of scenes unlike Lucy. I felt the same way about Neva too. I dont really favour the pairing of Eli and Lynn; it just felt too convenient, like they had to pair her up with somebody, and since Eli was there, why not him? But the romance does not take center seat, and for that I'm happy. But I do hope Lynn finds her happily ever after in In A Handful of Dust.

One thing that me kind of puzzled was that there didn't seem to be much of a plot, or a specific direction the story was taking, especially with the ending conveying a certain complacency with the state of affairs. But dont get me wrong, that did not detract from the enjoyment of the story itself, because even the ins and out of their very existence makes for very interesting reading.

I'm glad authors are bringing real environmental issues into the forefront of their stories and I think this book does a great job of projecting the enormity and direness of the issue without allowing it to overwhelm the reader. And would you look at that gorgeous cover?! I swear, Mindy McGinnis has the best covers ever! In A Handful of Dust looks wow too!

Bottomline: At the end of the day, Not A Drop to Drink is a surprisingly brilliant debut, and as long as you dont mind a story that isn't plot driven, I would definitely recommend it!

Books of Amber:  Instead of romance, McGinnis focusses on Lynn and her relationships with several characters, instead of just one.

Xpresso Reads: This is the kind of dystopian that makes you feel ashamed for ever complaining about trivial things.

Hello, Chelly:  In a story this dark, I didn't expect to find myself unexpectedly smiling as Lynn learned how to be a friend or how to flirt with a guy.

Holding Quote:
“Things have changed," Mother answered, her gaze drawn to the southern horizon. "So we change with them.”

“Why do you always quote poetry at me when all I want is a straight answer?”

“Where you go, he'll go," Stebbs said.
"I know it."
"Tough caring about people, isn't it?"
... "Wouldn't trade it," she said.”