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BOOK REVIEW: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

| 2 August 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Walker Books
October 2018
Paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Dystopia

50% Rocking

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Anything by Neal Shusterman is a must read for this reviewer, after an introduction to his work with the jaw-droppingly original UnWind and a confirmation of his skill in the chilling interpretation of a utopia in Scythe.

Unfortunately this book fell into a big hole full of tropes and predictability, to the point that I sometimes wondered if Neal Shusterman had any part in writing it.

That’s not to say it was terrible, but readers have come to expect surprise from Shusterman, and this was your standard drought-based crisis story. Preppers and non-preppers coming to a head, priorities shifting, societal panic, unlikely friendships and relationships being formed, and people trying to survive at all costs.

My dad always told me that there are three types of humans on this planet. First there’s the Sheep. The everyday types who live in denial—spoon-fed by the morning news, chewed up by another monotonous workday, and spit back out across the urban streets of the world like a mouthful of funky meatloaf that’s been rotting in the back of the fridge. Basically, the Sheep are the defenseless majority who are completely unwilling to acknowledge the inevitability of real danger, and trust the system to take care of them.

There’s this thing that happens with a mob. It’s called “deindividuation.” It’s the kind of thing that happens when a cop puts on a uniform, or when you wear a pair of sunglasses so people can’t quite see your eyes. It’s like you slip out of your normal self—and it makes you feel different. Behave different. So what happens when you’re just another thirsty soul in sea of water-zombies? You become one.

She keeps her eyes forward, refusing to even look at the people in the encampment. It seems out of character for her, and makes me think about how she agreed with my father yesterday. Either you give everything, or nothing at all—and I realize why she’s refusing to look. For a girl like her, whose first instinct is always to fix a situation, the “nothing at all” choice isn’t easy.

All in all, not bad elements, and the writing itself had a certain Shusterman flair, but the layout of this story and said elements have been done to death. And from someone who created a world in which unwanted kids are harvested for all their organs and it’s seen as okay (UnWind)… from someone who created a world in which people are immortal, until such time as a scythe taps them on the shoulder, and our main characters are in training to be the people who choose who dies (Scythe)… from someone who created those worlds, everything in Dry feels predictable.

Readers of Shusterman’s other work, and readers (or viewers) of various dystopic, end-of-society-as-we-know-it style stories won’t find much here to surprise them.

That doesn’t mean the writing itself isn’t worthy of being read, and had this not been written by Shusterman, maybe it would have been rated higher, it’s hard to say. Just don’t go in expecting to be shocked like you would any other Shusterman book.

Wasn’t it Jacqui who told us the human body is sixty percent water? Well, now I know what the rest is. The rest is dust, the rest is ash, it’s sorrow and it’s grief. . . . But above all that, in spite of all that, binding us together . . . is hope. And joy. And a wellspring of all the things that still might be.










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