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How many of you can say that you read a book that made you thirsty? Few, to be certain; that’s rarely the effect a book aims to accomplish! (And if it did, it likely wasn’t intentional). Yet now I can say that I have read a book that made me genuinely thirsty, on purpose. Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, is harrowing, thrilling, and feels all too real.

Dry begins in a small Southern California neighborhood. Alyssa Morrow, her younger brother Garrett, her parents, and her dog Kingston are living a very normal life. California’s drought is continuing on for longer than usual, but some laws have been put into place in an effort to conserve water. The laws are working, and California is doing fine. That is, until Arizona and Nevada cut off the Colorado River. California has become so dependent on the river that now water is limited to what they’ve already got. And that’s not enough for everyone. As water runs out, friends and strangers alike turn on each other in an effort to survive. When Alyssa and Garrett’s parents disappear, they’re forced to make an alliance with their slightly nutty survivalist neighbor Kelton McCracken. And as things get progressively worse, the trio will need to find other means of getting water, and they’ll pick up some more passengers on their quest.

Dry is an addictive story. Once you pick it up, you keep thinking about doing something else, but you don’t want to put it down, and pretty soon you’ve been reading for hours. Not only is it addicting, but it evokes real emotions. You’re so worried about the main characters that it feels like you’re worrying about your best friends. Dry is also very realistic. The symptoms of dehydration, for instance, are described in a way you can imagine, and consistent with science. The public’s reaction to the "Tap-Out" (as it is called) and the following turmoil seems real, like something that could conceivably happen anywhere.

The story is told in a form I’d never seen used before. The narration switches between the main characters, but in addition to that, some "snapshots" are included that provide fresh perspectives on the situation in brief moments from different people’s lives. Among those are a news reporter, a family trying to escape on a plane, and a student waiting for airlifted water. The snapshots really broaden the view of the situation as a whole, and it’s nice to have a quick break from the story of the main characters.

I would recommend Dry for anybody 12+. I’d recommend it for everyone, but it does have some bad language in it. Nevertheless, it went above and beyond my initial expectations, and it will do the same for even those with the highest of reading standards!

Nina Vigil, 12, New York

Reader Interactions


  1. This review is so right! I am reading this with my class, but I kinda sorta went ahead and read… oh, let’s see, a couple times. I read the whole book once, then again… that’s right, I read it twice, and my class is only on chapter 13! I am a quarter of a way through my third time reading it, and you are sooo right, Nina! This book is addicting! (Kept me up half the night!) I really like the way you summarized what is going on in the book itself, too. Right on target!

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