Book Review: Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman (3/5 Stars)

Read If You Like: Thrillers, YA High School/Middle School, End of the world novels, First person narration

This is Book is Good For: A Class on Environmentalism, A gift to your in-law that doesn’t believe in global warming, For when you need to convince someone not to move to California

Dry is a science fiction, YA thriller that follows siblings Alyssa and Garrett along with their disaster ready next-door neighbor Kelton as they struggle to survive during a drought in southern California that quickly becomes a National disaster. The Tap-Out is a terrifying scenario that seems eerily realistic in the modern era, which adds to the potency of the book. I thought the scenario was interesting and the plot points the authors chose throughout the book kept me turning the pages, although the sweet spot of the novel was the definitely middle. I was not impressed by the end.

I had trouble getting invested at first but continued reading because I was interested in the concept. Alyssa and Garrett were okay characters, but not incredibly impressive or original. Neither one was particularly appealing to me and Alyssa kind of irritated me at times, although I do understand that she’s young. Garret was the most likable character by far and his childishness made sense given the situation. His devotion to his dog was really relatable and charming. As for Kelton, I thought that his character development was interesting. He comes off as a really creepy kid, but he was an interesting addition to the story. I thought Kelton’s family was an interesting plot device and his older brother brought a lot of twists to the novel. I do think that Jacqui and Henry’s characters, both who are brought into the picture about halfway through, took away from the novel at times. Jacqui was interesting, but I often found her unneeded and problematic. While she did contribute to the plot and made for interesting conversation, she could have been left behind and the story would have been fine. Henry’s addition, on the other hand, was completely unnecessary. While I understand what the authors were trying to do by adding the plot point of the “back up water,” I didn’t like him and I’m not sure it was necessary. The kids already had enough to deal with and Henry could have easily been a smaller character like the Water Fairy or Uncle Herb. I would have left him out of the rest of the novel.

The novel really shines in the small snapshots in between the main plot. I wish there would have been more of them and I really enjoyed the unique way it shows the scape of the problem as it unfolded. I would have been more interested in a novel focused on the small stories of people within a natural disaster with a loose plot. I did think that the descriptions of the evacuation facilities and the description of societies breakdown were done well. It gave me a lot to think about and I appreciated that the author included realistic ideas about the good and bad in people during a crisis. Overall, the novel is an interesting thought experiment that I enjoyed reading, but it wasn’t one of my absolute favorites.