Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Title: Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink #1)
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: September 24, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 309
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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.

I purchased a copy of Not a Drop to Drink quite awhile ago, but was never quite ready to read it. Although I love dystopian books, something about this one made me unsure, not willing to commit. I finally decided to read it as part of my Dystopia Reading Challenge, despite my doubts. As I suspected, it was quite a bit different from anything else I've read, but I'm glad I decided to go for it!

Not a Drop to Drink is a story about a girl and her pond and that's basically it. Lynn is the heroine of this book and her sole purpose in life is to defend her home and her water source. That's what she's been trained to do since birth. That's all she's ever known and she is willing to go to brutal lengths to keep what's hers. Lynn doesn't spare a second thought for the man she puts a bullet through for coming too close. She's cold... but I liked her. I found Lynn to be a strong and likable protagonist, if quite a bit naive. My favorite part about Lynn was that she took new information into consideration throughout the book and grew as a character, unlike Mother who was set in her ways.

This is YA dystopian fiction so there's obviously some romance, but I thought it was written pretty well. Since there's no competition, there's no love triangle (yay!!) but there is a teensy bit of insta-love. I do think it makes some sense though, given the situation. The love interest is Eli, a city boy who has found himself out in the wild without a clue. Their romance was sweet and innocent and even painful at times.

The only other humans Lynn has any contact with are Stebbs and Lucy. Stebbs is her long-time neighbor who seems to have a really good set up at his place, so never bothers Lynn about her pond. I loved, LOVED watching her relationship with him grow as she came to trust him more. and Lucy is a little girl who comes to depend completely on Lynn for survival. My only issue with Lucy is that it seemed totally out of character for Lynn to basically adopt her because a stranger told her to. I'm not sure why Lynn couldn't have grown as a character without this happening.

All that is to say I loved (most of) the characters that Mindy McGinnis has developed for this book. They are all strong in their own ways and each is a vital part of the story. As for the world building, the story takes place almost entirely on Lynn's property and at the stream nearby. Because of this there isn't much world building at all, which is actually okay since that is literally the only world Lynn has ever known. What is revealed about the world is pretty disconcerting.

My real problem with Not a Drop to Drink was the pacing. The beginning and the end were full of action! For the entire middle of the book there were brief moments of action followed by long lags basically filled with day-to-day life. This was a short book, but it felt like even more of it could have been cut out. The action that DOES happen is gripping and shocking and pretty incredible! I just wish there was more of it!

Overall, this was a good read even if it wasn't perfect. The characters were amazing and the world, while sparse, was intriguing! I do think there could have been more action and I wish the story had been a little more focused on the confrontations with the people to the South and less on hauling water and chopping wood. I would recommend this readers who like their dystopian fiction a little slower and a bit more practical.