What Will You Do to Survive the Future?
There was a time when NUCLEAR WAR was the thing we feared most. People built bomb shelters outside their homes and prepared for the day when THE BIG ONE would be dropped. As a kid, I remember begging to stay up one school night and watch a TV movie called The Day After. Whatever you do, do not watch this movie. Especially if you are 9 and prone to movie induced fear.
You’ve probably noticed that post apocalyptic fiction is kind of a thing right now. It can be dystopian, like The Hunger Games or Divergent. It can have zombies, like the Rot & Ruin series. Or it can have an environmental theme, like Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. What’s that you say, you haven’t heard of Not a Drop to Drink! It’s coming out in September and you should read it. But let’s get back to the apocalypse for a moment, shall we.
At a recent festival, I listened as Mike Mullin, the author of the Ashfall series (post-apocalyptic with a environmental theme), Lindsay Cummings (the upcoming The Murder Complex) and Jonathan Maberry (author of the very spectacular zombie series Rot & Ruin) discussed how to survive the apocalypse. They said that one of the hallmarks of the apocalypse is that people learn that they can’t survive on their own. But if you watch The Walking Dead or have read some of the post-apocalypse books out there, like Monument 14, you also know that your fellow human beings can be the one thing that finally gets you after you survive the zombie plague or whatever happens to be coming. Take, for example, Monument 14. Here, a group of teens are stranded in a super mega store, completely locked in by emergency gates, when a couple of strangers come asking to take refuge with them. There is a part of you that is all, “I should be a nice person and do the right thing and help my fellow humans.” But sometimes, being nice can bite you in the butt if you let the wrong person in.
Which brings us to Not a Drop to Drink. In this future, drinkable water is a rarity and Lynn and her mother happen to live in a house with a small pond that provides them with it. Occasionally, people come around and try to take it. Lynn has been taught since practically birth that she must guard the water at all costs. She lives a life of very strict routine that helps assure her survival: gather supplies based on the season, forage close to home, and protect the water at all costs. But wisps of smoke in the distance mean that everything is about to change.
What follows is a look at a fallen world, the tension between doing what we know to be right in this world and a discussion of what would be right in the post apocalyptic one, and an examination of what it means to be a part of this little thing we like to call the human race. Some people will do despicable things to make sure they are the winner of the race (those people and those scenes are terrifying), others will do the right thing to make sure that more people get to finish the race. But in this world, the right thing may be different than how you or I would do things today. And that makes for some amazing tension, subtle chills, and for some very interesting discussion.
Not a Drop to Drink is also a story about relationships and building community in a broken world, especially for a girl who has been taught to think that isolation is the one thing that will keep her safe. As you read, you can’t help but ask yourself, “what would I do?” And sometimes, you may find that the answers surprise you.
Lynn has never really known the pre-apocalyptic world. When our story begins, we are told that Lynn made her first killing to protect the pond at the age of 9. She has not grown up with the sense of community and hope for the future that most teens have. This means that when an opportunity presents itself, she approaches it from a very different point of view than today’s teens would. Survival is the only goal.
Not a Drop to Drink is much more Ashfall than Hunger Games. It has a realism that will haunt you, and in that gritty realism you know all too well that the events are unfolding in a way that is much more likely to happen than in The Hunger Games or Divergent. As a study in the human spirit, and the evil that can live in men’s souls, these more realistic post apocalyptic books can be both more disturbing to read, but they are also a more reliable study and look at unfolding events and the psychology behind them – making them that much more amazing to read. In many ways, books like Not a Drop to Drink and Ashfall are much more haunting because while I know that I will never have to worry about surviving a zombie plague, it is all too possible that I may have to find ways to survive in a newly primitive, dog eat dog world because of some type of environmental disaster. Frankly, my hopes for survival are incredibly slim. But I keep reading books like Not a Drop to Drink looking for survival tips, and for a compelling look into the psychology of us all.
In the end I give Not a Drop to Drink 4 stars for its brutal and unflinching look at survival, haunting tone, and pulse pounding realism. Definitely recommended.
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinniss. Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins. Coming in September 2013. ISBN: 9780062198501 (I received an uncorrected ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I begged for it actually, and it did not disappoint.)
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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