Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman – Review by Heather Berg
I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t really given water much thought lately. I mean, I encounter it daily as I brush my teeth, scrub another round of dishes, or wash my daughters’ endlessly sticky hands. And sure, after a long run or a day in the sun, I’m happy to guzzle down a cold bottle or two. Listening to the news, I understand- in the abstract- that water scarcity is a real and increasingly urgent global issue but it is difficult to wrap my mind around the possibility of not having immediate access to water when I have been lucky enough that it is and has been available whenever I wanted or needed it. Fortunately, I picked up Dry, a novel written by father-son duo Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about water since.
A big fan of Shusterman, Sr.’s UnWind Dystology that tackles political and ethical issues in a not-so-distant-future-America, I was excited to dive into another world of his making. Dry has Shusterman’s signature “contemporary futuristic” setting and his no-frills style as it paints a horrifying yet believable picture of the potential for widespread drought and the devastation and havoc it could wreak. This was my first foray into the sub-genre of “cli-sci” or science fiction with a focus on climate issues and I found the novel eye-opening, riveting, and timely.
It begins when the water stops.
The novel, told in the alternating perspectives of Alyssa, Kelton, Jacqui, and Henry, is about four teenagers whose lives collide during the California “Tap Out,” in which the state’s supply of water that was being routed to them from the Colorado River, is shut off without notice. Neighborhoods devolve into warzones with Costco at the frontlines; Doomsday Preppers hunker down in their bunker’s, gleefully muttering “We told you so,” and the clock starts to tick on not only human lives but their very humanity. The action abounds as each character must do what they can or are willing to do to survive. And whoever is left standing in the end will have to live with the choices they’ve made.
I think what sets this book apart is its potential to be a catalyst of change. When my heart stopped pounding and I climbed out of the internet rabbit hole that is Doomsday Prepping 101, I was left with the urge to do something. I want to know more and do better with my own resource consumption. I know I will be putting this book into the hands of my students with the hopes that it makes them feel the same.
Heather Berg hails from a long line of teachers and has worked for the Scotch Plains Public School District since 2010. She is a full-time mom to her two mostly domesticated daughters, wife to a fellow professional educator, and devotee to all things YA. She practices mediocre yoga and cooks elaborate meals in Central New Jersey.