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.
Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink #1)Featured
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.
I've heard nothing but good things about Not A Drop To Drink and the reviews were right: this is a story you don't want to miss.
What sets this novel apart from other dystopian/apocalyptic novels is its tone. Often these kinds of stories are fighting stories, whether its against the evil government or some rebel leader who goes too far. Not A Drop To Drink is a quieter story about survival at its barest: protecting your only source of water, finding food to last through the winter, getting enough wood to stay warm. These are the thoughts that are constantly running through Lynn and her mother's minds.
Lynn is a fascinating character with a compelling character arc. At the beginning of the novel, she's just like her mother, her only concern survival and with an us versus them mentality. Her mother is the only person who matters in her life. When she's confronted with other people, she finds herself unexpectedly making a different choice than her mother: she lets them in, and it changes everything about her life.
What Left Me Wanting More:
While the fact that this is a close story focused narrowly on Lynn's journey is my favorite part of the novel, I still found myself curious about the world at large. I wanted to know more about the water shortage and how society devolved.
The Final Verdict:
Brutal, honest, and compelling, Not A Drop To Drink is a story that will keep you riveted from the first page.
In the story, Mindy McGinnis has created a futuristic United States where access to water is limited. Cholera has decimated the population, spreading through a thinning water supply. The scariest part of the entire story- something like this could actually happen. It feels so real-it is scary. With past natural disasters and temporary shortages of clean water, the entire premise of the book seems eerily possible.
McGinnis creates a world that is very real. She uses frank narration that is straight to the point but at the same time very descriptive. The setting is just a small section of land in the United States but this adds to the realism. The entire story feels like it could be an average American’s recollection of a horrible time. The reader never finds out the whole story of what happened before Lynn steps into the picture. However, this being Lynn’s story, she didn’t have the all this information- many of the characters do not. Like many people in real life, Lynn accepts her world and needs to do anything she can to survive- the “why it happened” isn’t her top priority what she does within that world is.
What makes this story different from other Dystopian novels is that it focuses mainly on survival- not governments gone bad, companies poisoning the consumers, or secret societies and conspiracies. For Lynn and the others it is all about staying alive.
Survival in its truest form gets to the heart of every reader. It is easy to connect to Lynn. Although having never been in the same situation, we hear news stories all the time or may personally know someone, who had to fight for survival, had to protect their own. It can be the fight to survive cancer, a soldier fighting to keep people safe in a war torn area, they are people fighting to stay alive and to keep their loved ones safe.
If you read Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, Susan Beth Pfeaffer’s Last Survivors Series, or enjoy reading nonfiction stories about survival- you will definitely enjoy Not a Drop to Drink. Already have a waiting list for the two copies in my library.
About a year ago, I couldn’t get enough of the dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels that were flooding the market. However, the sub-par offerings wore me down, and now I’m very wary of reading any of them. Positive reviews of Not a Drop to Drink convinced me that I needed to give this one a shot and I am very glad I did. Mindy McGinnis’ debut novel stands out from the crowd with its quiet focus and daring.
In an eerily possible post-apocalyptic future, potable water is scarce. The bulk of humanity has clustered into cities, where purified water can be purchased at punishing prices. McGinnis doesn’t really go deeply into the reasons why this has come about, but Lynn, the heroine, doesn’t know either. The scale of the world building is quite small, limited to Lynn’s own view, and she doesn’t venture more than a few miles from her pond. Though this narrows the scope, McGinnis does this very effectively.
Where most post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels are highly dramatic and jam-packed with action, Not a Drop to Drink is subtler and quieter. Though there’s a lot of darkness here, McGinnis creates Lynn’s world view so effectively that everything, terrible or boring, feels like an ordinary part of daily life. Herein lies the strength of the novel. When Lynn and her mother kill men who approach their house in the night, it’s NORMAL; it’s not a good thing, but done with the same grim determination as a family barely making ends meet from month to month. McGinnis doesn’t cover what the whole world is doing, but establishes how a single girl might make a life for herself under these circumstances. The focus is the day in and day out of protecting the well, preparing for winter, and fending off those who would take from her.
Lynn killed for the first time at the age of nine. Her mother trained her well, and together they defend the pond that is their reliable water source, the most valuable possession they have. They trust nobody else, except partially Stebbs, who has a small cottage across a wide field. What’s so wonderful about the opening is that Lynn and her mother put their survival above everything else. Lynn’s mother’s cold practicality is well-summed up by this harrowing quote.
“Just know that there’s bad men in the world, and dying fast by your mother is a better way than theirs.”
Central to Not a Drop to Drink is Lynn’s emotional journey from being as cold and hardened as her mother to a caring individual, capable of trusting when warranted. However, and this really makes Not a Drop to Drink different from the standard dystopian offerings, Lynn’s softening doesn’t happen as a result of a romance. Instead, the biggest influences on her are Stebbs, who is one of the best mentor characters I’ve read, and Lucy, a young girl that Lynn can’t quite bring herself to leave to the elements. There is a boy, but he has much less of an impact on her than they do.
What Left Me Wanting Just a Bit More:
The way that Mindy McGinnis ended things really surprised me, largely in a great way. Unlike most YA post-apocalyptic novels, she actually kills off some protagonists, which I always love. The epilogue, however, was the one thing that I wasn’t sure about. It jumps so far in the future, and I don’t really know what to make of it.
The Final Verdict:
Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink manages to be an original, beautiful read in an over-saturated genre. I highly recommend this for readers who appreciate good character arcs, a strong setting, darkness, and do not mind a slower pace.
Spare, evocative prose quickly draws the reader into a harsh world where survival is the number one priority and human relationships are a distant second. There are no flowery, romanticized descriptions here, and that works to make the writing as starkly atmospheric as the setting of the story itself.
The characters are fascinating and come to live on the page in tiny details and small actions. The heroine, Lynn, is different from other heroines I've read in dystopian literature in that she is truly shaped by her upbringing and environment and has the scars to prove it, but she is able to grow tremendously throughout the story. She is a survivalist through and through, and is sometimes difficult to relate to for the reader because her emotions are so submerged beneath her staunch practicality and do-or-die mindset. When she comes in contact with other people halfway through the story, we see her mindset slowly shift--not *change*, but shift--as she slowly opens her heart to relationships. She is still a survivalist to the end, but now she extends her do-or-die mindset to include the survival of those she's come to love.
The plot is as much about survival against the elements and against the threat of bad people as it is about Lynn's journey toward learning how to be part of a small community. The balance between outside threats and relational growth is expertly rendered, and readers who prefer relationships and romance will be just as satisfied with that balance as readers who prefer harsh dystopian themes alone. This is an excellent book for reluctant readers, and I would recommend it for both male and female readers.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I think the author took a huge risk with the ending of this story, and I applaud her for it. I think the ending certainly remains true to the setting of the world, and some readers are going to appreciate that. Other readers are going to be upset and wish for a little bit more hope and happiness at the end of Lynn's journey. I fall into the "please give me a bit more hope" category, but I want to note that there *is* hope at the end of the book. There is a paradigm shift in Lynn's outlook and situation, and it's a topic worth discussing. I'm just a romantic at heart and wanted a bit more.
I also wanted more information on how the world got into the state it's in when the story opens. There are a few references here and there, but I couldn't get a solid picture of what caused the water shortage, how far ahead in history the story takes place, or what sort of government, if any, still existed beyond the one city Lynn knows about.
NOT A DROP TO DRINK is an gritty, compelling story that is as much about survival of the human heart as it is about beating the odds in a harsh, dystopian world.
The world of Not a Drop to Drink felt real, frightening, and worse of all, plausible. A world without running water seems all too likely a grim, futuristic scenario, and the research behind water crises was apparent in this book. Much of the book was devoted to the problem of finding and purifying water. It could have been boring, but was saved from being so by the lush world created around this problem.
Furthermore, I thought there were very real and present threats throughout Not a Drop to Drink, which I appreciated. The grimness and routine of Lynn’s world was shown in full, but at any moment I knew something could happen that would threaten to take away Lynn’s water source for good. The minor characters were all dynamic characters that I long to learn more about. However, that brings me to the main problem I had with this book: Lynn, or rather, the way her character was portrayed at certain parts.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Lynn. She’s tough, unnerving, and quick-thinking. She acts(and shoots) firsts and take questions later. When everything’s a matter of survival, she know she has to do whatever it takes just to stay alive. As the story progresses, she lets some more of her humanity in without losing her survival instinct. I LONG for characters like this. I feel so often in science fiction or Dystopia, you get tough female characters who are tough at the EXPENSE of their humanity. Vulnerable characters can be good characters too, and being a “strong” character and being kind and potentially vulnerable are not polar opposites. So naturally, I quite enjoyed this exploration of Lynn’s character. However. . . I never really felt the exploration.
It’s hard to describe, but basically, as time passes and Lynn meets more humans, she opens up a little. She’ll shoot if needed, no questions about that, but she realizes that not everyone is an enemy, and she needs to be able to distinguish the two. Naturally, this set of events comes with a lot of emotions, many of which Lynn has never experienced before, like being attracted to a boy or caring for a little girl. However, while I was told Lynn’s emotions, I, as a reader, never felt them. Lynn would cry in grief and I would be stone cold. She would react hastily and I had no “oh, Lynn” moments like I do with so many characters. Lynn would react to things, but she never really felt.
This isn’t even a case of not being able to connect to a character, at least not in my opinion. It might be that, but in stronger ways. There have been times I couldn’t relate to or connect to a character, but I still understood their emotions. I still felt like they were feeling something. Whereas in Lynn’s case, I NEVER perceived her feeling emotion. Some awful things happen and just. . . nothing. But she wasn’t emotionless, because her actions said otherwise. This wasn’t even a Katniss situation where I thought the character HAD emotions but was so out-of-touch with them. It’s more like McGinnis, as the author, was the translator between me and Lynn, and something just got completely lost in translation.
It saddened me, because the actual plot of Not a Drop to Drink was compelling, but I am a character-driven reader, and feeling that utter lack of emotion between Lynn and her actions was seriously distracting. I am not sure what the original intent was–I think I would have understood more if I felt McGinnis was attempting to make Lynn emotionless, which I could have gone for giving her situation and upbringing, but that’s not how it came across. Once again, I will say how impressed I am by the sparse world crafted in Not a Drop to Drink, and how conflicted I am about the characters.
Final Impression: I have SUCH conflicting emotions on this one. On one hand, it’s a well-written book with a fabulously done world and plot, but there was something so off in Lynn’s character. She wasn’t completely emotionless, and she wasn’t out of touch with her emotions, but it was like I, as the reader, was given no brige to access them myself. The final result was my utter lack of apathy towards most of the characters in the novel, including Lynn herself. I wanted them to be okay for the story’s sake, but whenever any of them were in danger, I wasn’t catching my breath.
"Water water everywhere, but nor a drop to drink."
Something I will say, McGinnis is not afraid to give her readers the FEELS. They were all over the place in this book. From heart stopping moments to awwww moments. It was full of them. I would love to explain, but I can't for fear of spoilers. Just be prepared if you're planning on reading this sometime soon.
"Pain is nothing to be ashamed of."
One thing I did think it was lacking was adventure. I wanted the villain to appear a little more just to make them fight more. Had the events in the end of the novel been spread sporadically through out it, I would have rated this 5 stars. But for the most part I was a little bored. There were times when I was like O_O but then nothing like that what happen again for a bunch more pages.
"Self reliance had been [her] mantra. Nothing was more important than themselves and their belongings."
As for the characters. I liked them and the writing because they fit together so well. I couldn't really connect with Lynn, but I felt that was because she had a hard exterior due to the situation she was in. And the writing flowed so nicely, ironic in a world where water doesn't anymore. I just wish I could have been given a clearer picture of the world surrounding them. I'm a huge fan of world building (which is why I'm not a huge fan of dystopians... I haven't found one I just LOVE yet.) and while McGinnis gives us a glimpse in the beginning and then again when winter starts, I was still left wanting more.
"It seems like it'd be kind of nice not spending every minute living working against dying."
In short, this was a good dystopian to help me start expanding my horizon It had a solid romance and some thrills that I didn't see coming. This was a solid debut that gave me all the feels! I can't wait to see what else McGinnis has up her sleeve.
Lynn grew up with her mom, and her mom taught her everything she knew. In this world, their pond is the most important thing, and they defend it with their lives, and for them that also means taking lives. Lynn knows how to shoot, purify water, cut down trees, skin and dress a deer basically everything that keeps them alive in a world without help, stores, electricity, or running water.
It is so hard to review without spoiling things, but basically Lynn grows through some of the people that unexpectedly comes into her life and makes her question some of the things she was taught about outsiders. There are also some that prove everything right. There is such character development and that is one of the things that I love.
Through a little girl Lucy, the most change, determination and strength came out in Lynn. She not only had a helper in Lucy, and someone else to teach how to survive, but she also had a lot to learn from the little girl. Seeing the bigger picture, survival, and not bothering the adults even with something that should have needed their attention, she was selfless and caring to others. The theme of family, togetherness, and friendship really shone through these two characters in particular.
The romance is sweet and subtle, a slow build, my favorite kind. Lynn knew nothing about men except they were evil from her mom, and she realizes that just like women, they can be good or bad, or some shade of gray in the middle. So it is really fun to watch her learn what flirting is.
The story would have been a five star if it weren't for the ending. I guess that for some it would be great, realistic, and fitting for the story, but for me, it did not work. I was so heartbroken and though the way it ended up was full of hope in promise in others, I still couldn't get over the shock and the loss.
Bottom Line: Loved the main character, and 3/4 of the story but the ending was NOT for me.