Review: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
‘This is the true core of human nature. When we’ve lost the strength to save ourselves, we somehow find the strength to save each other.’
California has been experiencing a drought for a while. The Tap-Out has led to the introduction of the Frivolous Use Initiative – fining people for watering their lawns or throwing water balloons – among other things, but it’s too little, too late. The damage has already been done.
Although it’s a surprise when water stops running through the taps, it feels inevitable. The government brings in desalination tanks to filter the saltwater from the ocean, so Alyssa and Garrett’s parents head down there to try and get their family some water… But they don’t come back.
Luckily, their next door neighbours are doomsday preppers whose son has a huge crush on Alyssa. Kelton offers them water to get them through the day, and after a couple of harrowing events they – along with Jacqui, a girl they meet during an encounter with some “water zombies” – head across the country in search of the family’s Bug-Out.
Dry is thrilling because it feels realistic. With devastating wildfires breaking out across California every year, destroying huge swathes of the land and taking lives, the idea of a drought being so bad that all water completely dries up isn’t that bizarre. As the events unfold, you remain gripped and unable to put the book down because you just can’t wait to see what happens next, the same way that it’s difficult to turn the live coverage on TV off when a natural disaster is unfolding.
As well as jumping between multiple perspectives (primarily Alyssa and Kelton, but with more introduced) there are also ‘snapshots’ laced throughout the story, adding layers to the world and drawing you even further in. Following people trapped in airports, stationary cars jammed on the freeway and pilots unable to help thousands in need, the depth of world-building and attention to detail is astounding.
If you can, I highly suggest setting aside a chunk of time before you start reading Dry, because as soon as the tension starts building it’s very hard to pull yourself out of the story. I made the mistake of picking Dry up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t get back to sleep, and I ended up staying awake for three hours to finish it – it was impossible to resist turning another page, and another, and another…
You’ll find your mouth drying out and feel thankful for every bit of liquid you drink while you’re reading it. It’s also made me much more careful with water; I’ve never been particularly wasteful, but I’ve found myself taking shorter showers and using the tap less throughout the day. If everyone who reads Dry makes the effort to cut down on their water usage even by a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.