Not a Drop to Drink
by Mindy McGinnis
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.
When I first read the summary for Not a Drop to Drink earlier this year, I was certain it was a “me!” book, which is why my complete conflicted feelings on the book make me even more disappointed. While I enjoyed the story that was Not a Drop to Drink and thought it was expertly written, I did have some major problems with the characters in this novel. So let me start with the good:
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. 3/5 cupcakes.