Not A Drop to Drink is set in a future where water is scarce, and the main character Lynn is left to defend her pond.
This is how I felt most of the time while reading Not a Drop to Drink…
The short, non-spoilery version of my review: This book only engaged me occasionally. I never connected with the characters. And at the end of the book, I never felt there was a purpose to this entire story I just read.
The longer, WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW version of my review…
The first four chapters were a COMPLETE snooze. I cared nothing about Lynn, Mother (I hate that she was referred to as Mother in third person, but more on that later), or their lives. We spend four chapters eavesdropping on their day-to-day battle with purifying water (which is as boring as it sounds), and it’s quite frankly way too slow of a start for a YA novel of this length. If they had both died in the second chapter to make way for more interesting characters I would not have cared less. In fact, when Mother died in chapter five my reaction wasn’t sad so much as, “Finally, something happened!” But then the next several chapters dragged as well. Lynn has to cope with daily life alone, as well as the emotional impact of accidentally killing her mom. Except we’re only kind of told she feels the way, and we certainly never feel that she feels this way. Or at least I didn’t feel it. In fact, this book made me feel very little at all, except angry for wasting my time.
But to be fair, I didn’t hate everything about Not A Drop to Drink. Actually, I didn’t really hate any of it. It just felt meh most of the time. When Stebbs finally came along, my interest was piqued. I was also interested when Lucy and Eli came along, and it was sort of neat to watch Lynn soften up to them.
The former felt natural and earned. The latter felt a little more rushed. I can believe that a teenage girl who had basically zero knowledge about the opposite sex (and what little she did know was the very negative connotations her Mother gave her) can quickly become attracted to a teenage guy, and that she would quickly attach to him, especially considering he’s literally her only option for the time-being. But the fact that she literally just learned about sex and has an extremely negative image of men, and then turns around and has no problem with spooning with Eli in the dark in her bed when he has no shirt on makes zero sense to me. It also makes no sense to me that this is the form of affection he immediately jumps to after back-rubbing, especially for a guy who claims he’s not trying to have sex with her. Hmmm.
All the character moments with Lucy and Eli and Stebbs felt too small in the large scheme of the story. All I feel I can really say about the people Lynn gets to know is that they had potential to be interesting. Weeks fly by with very little actual interaction happening, which can be fine, but it in this case did nothing to help advance the extremely shallow-feeling relationships among all the characters in this book. Even though this book was not written on the same simplistic level as The Testing, it felt almost as detaching. Sometimes even more so. When What’s-Her-Name (Eli’s sister-in-law whose name has escaped me) lost her baby, that had a lot of potential to be heartbreaking. But it wasn’t. It was very sad, sure, but not heartbreaking like it should have been. And she could have been a great character, but instead she just felt like a flat, emo character. Depression is real and she went through some real crap, but again, I didn’t feel it. I should have known this book would be lacking emotionally from the first page when Lynn’s mom was referred to as Mother in a third person narrative. It sounded ridiculous in my head. The fact that Lynn actually called her Mother instead of Mom seemed ridiculous, but even more so for the narrator to do so.
And speaking of feeling things, Lynn and everyone is supposedly living in constant danger. They have wolves circling around, people shooting at them, some real jerks taking women (more on that later)… but I rarely ever felt the danger. There would be moments where Lynn and Stebbs would be like, Oh crap, this means trouble! But I never believed them.
Besides, how bad off are you when you somehow have UNLIMITED AMMO?! Lynn’s been living in this house for like 16 years, shooting off people and wolves on a weekly basis, and they still have ammo after all this time, yet they were never able to find a better way to get or purify water? They have instruments and canned food and enough clothing to last Lynn’s entire life but production of water purifiers ceased? Seriously?! I just don’t buy it.
Now, let’s get back to the jerk guys who were taking women. Basically, they were enslaving them for sex trade. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN AN ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING TOPIC FOR THE STORY TO EXPLORE. Human trafficking is happening today in the United States, and for a moment I thought this story was building up to actually be a commentary on this heinous crime that happens in our very own backyard. But NOPE, it’s completely glossed over. Lynn spends time watching all this happen and all she can think about who she is going to shoot. I mean, I guess that’s how she knows how to bring justice, but I don’t know how much she was even thinking about that. And when she goes back to report to Stebbs what she saw, she just says, “They’re building a dam!” I didn’t even know that before she said it. I was just thinking about those poor women.
Which brings me to what happens at the end. Eli dies. And it felt cheap. I felt like Mindy McGinnis was trying to prove something by killing off the main character’s love interest. Again, it didn’t feel real when it happened, and there didn’t seem to be a point. I never even understood why Lynn and Stebbs felt like they had to shoot these people down. I mean, I understood academically, because it’s the Wild West mentality, but again, I never felt what they felt about it.
Which brings me to Lynn shooting her father in the head in cold blood. Uh, congratulations, you’re bad-a? Am I supposed to care? Or be impressed? Because I didn’t and I don’t. I was neither pleased or displeased that she did it. I didn’t feel like she had earned the right for me to feel it was vindication, and I didn’t care enough about him to feel one way or the other about it. SHE KILLED HER OWN FATHER AND I HAVE NO FEELINGS ABOUT IT. That just seems strange to me.
And when the story came to the end I wondered: What was the point to everything I just read? What did I learn about Lynn? The other characters? What was their journey? What did I learn about humanity or love or loss or anything while reading this?
One last rant… What kind of society finds the birth of a second child so heinous that they will kick you out of the city for it, but doesn’t perform operational procedures on every mother and father to ensure there are no second births? Again, it just didn’t feel real.
This book could have been worse, but it also had the potential to be a lot better.
Content Advisory: There is a fair amount of language throughout, violence is the norm, and there are several mentions of rape. And there’s the spooning.