Review | Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

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The definition of “good idea, poor execution”. What was the point of this book?

The story in Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman follows Alyssa and Kelton, two well-off/comfortable Californian teens, as they navigate a world without water. This near future dystopia was initially capitivating – it’s a terrifying version of California that isn’t really that far from our current world.

The first 50 pages or so gave me strong COVID lockdown vibes, which obviously wasn’t intentional because this was written pre-COVID, but should give you an idea of the feeling of chaos and hopelessness. I liked that. The feral people in Costco was very true to life.

After that, the story and the characters started to grate on me. SPOILERS AHEAD.
I don’t feel that characters need to be likeable to be interesting, but these characters were unlikeable and uninteresting. What do you want from a YA near future dystopia? Is it pointless love triangles and tedious teen drama? No? Me neither. If you think romance and dystopia can’t work together you’re wrong, just look at 1984 by George Orwell, or for a YA example, Heresy by C. A. Campbell.
I don’t care about crushes and immature flirtation when they are fighting for their lives – why was so much time given to that aspect of the story when there were so many avenues the destruction of society could have gone down? We had glimpses of that with the brief time spent with Alyssa’s uncle who thought he had lucked out in a gated community with back up water, but ended up getting dysentry. An interesting angle, but we get to see none of that struggle. Instead, we’re back with the teens squabbling about who is going to drive and which direction they should go in.
I truly think the writers were going for a perspective-changing and character-driven story, but I just wasn’t interested in the characters. There was no grit, no intrigue and they didn’t learn from their mistakes. Most of the story is spent in a car driving aimlessly or lost, shut in with these annoying characters.
All of that could have been a 3 star, but the ending was atrocious. After a quite nail-biting section where the characters are forced to kill and are seriously injured, they’re saved by an ex machina plane, air lifted out and…. everything pretty much goes back to how it was before. They’re back with their missing parents, who are fine, of course, they’re back in their middle class world, going back to high school and Alyssa and Kelton are back to the annoying “will they won’t they” that was almost left behind in the actually interesting segments of the book. Yes, some things changed, they even use the phrase “new normal” before that was a real world term, but after the life and death situations we watched the characters go through they’re just back in a drought, not watering their lawns and talking about jocks and cheerleaders again.

Dull. Not sure I’d recommend this book to fans of YA or fans of dystopia.


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