Dry Book Review

Neal Shusterman, a renowned American author known for his engaging young adult fiction, has carved a niche for himself with his thought-provoking and dystopian narratives.

“Dry”, his standalone novel co-written with his son Jarrod Shusterman, is a testament to his narrative prowess.

The novel presents a horrifyingly plausible scenario where California, a state already battling water scarcity, wakes up one day to find all taps run dry.

This catastrophic event, known as the “Tap-Out,” turns life upside down, and survival becomes a game of who can hold on to their humanity in the face of despair and dehydration.


The book’s theme hits close to home, considering the current global scenario.

With climate change and water scarcity becoming increasingly prevalent issues, “Dry” compels readers to consider the implications of our water usage and the fragility of our society.

It’s a theme we’ve seen touched on in news and documentaries, but Shusterman brings it to life in a stark and memorable way.

The inspiration for the book was born from Shusterman’s own experience of living in Southern California, a region often affected by drought and water scarcity.

Shusterman’s approach to dystopian literature is unique, as seen in “Dry.”

Instead of placing his characters in a far-off future or an entirely different universe, the world of “Dry” is frighteningly close to ours.

The narrative starts with a seemingly normal world like ours and then proceeds to unravel it bit by bit, as resources dwindle, pushing humanity to its brink.

This ‘uncomfortable closeness’ to reality is a trademark of Shusterman’s dystopian literature, making it stand out amidst other works in the genre.

In “Dry”, Shusterman successfully integrates this dystopian framework with a theme that’s globally relevant.

His execution of the narrative enables readers to feel the gravity of the situation, making us reflect on the consequences of unchecked resource consumption and the necessity for sustainable living.

This real-world relevance, combined with Shusterman’s storytelling prowess, sets the stage for an engaging, thought-provoking read.

Summary of the Book

“Dry” tells a heart-wrenching story of survival against all odds when a severe drought (the Tap-Out) hits California, leaving its residents to deal with the sudden disappearance of water.

We follow the lives of the main characters Alyssa, Kelton, Garrett, and Jacqui; each coming from different backgrounds and bearing different perspectives on the unfolding crisis.

Alyssa, the everyday teenager, her younger brother Garrett, their prepper neighbor Kelton, and rough-around-the-edges Jacqui, their journey is a testament to human resilience and survival instinct.

Throughout their quest for water, the reader witnesses the transformation of their neighborhood from a familiar, comfortable environment to an alien and dangerous landscape.

As society’s veneer of civilization begins to crumble, we see these characters tested in ways they had never imagined, their values challenged, and their actions shaping not only their own fate but also that of those around them.

Without spoiling the plot, it suffices to say that their journey is fraught with daunting challenges and revelations that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Detailed Analysis and Interpretation

The plot of “Dry” unfolds rapidly, a characteristic of Shusterman’s writing.

The narrative grips you from the beginning, and the pace never really slows down, ensuring that readers stay engaged.

Despite the fast-paced plot, there is no dearth of twists and turns, with each character bringing in their own surprises and developments.

Major themes in “Dry” include survival, humanity, sacrifice, and ethical dilemmas.

As the scarcity of water forces people into desperate measures, the book poses serious questions about what it means to be human when survival is at stake.

How far would one go to save oneself or one’s family?

At what point does survival outweigh moral judgment?

The characters grapple with these questions throughout the narrative.

The characters in “Dry” are not static but rather evolve as the narrative progresses.

The situations they encounter shape their attitudes and responses, leading to significant character development.

This character evolution adds depth to the narrative, giving readers characters they can empathize with and root for.

Shusterman’s writing style in “Dry” is crisp and realistic. His descriptions are vivid, allowing readers to visualize the parched landscape and the desperation of the characters.

His narrative evokes a range of emotions, keeping readers emotionally invested in the story.

The dystopian landscape of “Dry” is a compelling one, given its chilling plausibility.

The depiction of society’s rapid breakdown and the resultant anarchy in the face of a resource crisis is eerily realistic, adding to the overall impact of the book.

This world-building is one of the strengths of Shusterman’s writing, enhancing the reader’s immersion in the narrative.

Personal Response and Evaluation

“Dry” made a profound impact on me as a reader. Its premise of a water crisis, already a stark reality in some parts of the world, struck a chord.

I found myself increasingly invested in the characters’ survival, despair, and hope often mirroring my own emotions as I turned the pages.

This book is a wake-up call to the often-ignored fragility of our resources and the possible consequences of our current lifestyle.

While Shusterman’s narrative is commendable, the authenticity of the story is what sets “Dry” apart.

The fact that such a situation could potentially become a reality adds a layer of urgency and desperation to the narrative that most dystopian novels lack.

It’s a haunting portrayal of a society where water, a resource we often take for granted, becomes a luxury.

If there’s a criticism to be leveled, it could be at the pace of the narrative.

The relentless speed of events might sometimes make it difficult to fully process the gravity of the situation.

Also, some readers might find the grim realities presented in the book quite heavy. Nonetheless, the fast pace keeps the tension high and the pages turning.

Comparison with Other Works

Neal Shusterman’s other works, including the popular “Scythe” and “Unwind” series, also delve into dystopian themes but in a different fashion.

While “Scythe” explores a world without death and “Unwind” poses questions about the sanctity of life, “Dry” hits closer to home by dealing with an issue we’re already experiencing to some degree, water scarcity.

In the broader genre of dystopian young adult fiction, “Dry” stands out for its intense realism and the urgency of its theme.

Unlike dystopian worlds that are often set in a distant future or involve fantastical elements, “Dry” takes a terrifyingly plausible premise and explores the potential implications of our current actions.

In this regard, it provides a fresh perspective within the genre and establishes Shusterman as a writer who isn’t afraid to tackle hard-hitting issues head-on.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, “Dry” by Neal Shusterman is a gripping exploration of a plausible water crisis, a thought-provoking narrative that stays with the reader long after they’ve turned the last page.

The book’s strength lies in its gritty realism, well-developed characters, and the tangible tension that runs through the narrative.

While the relentless pace might occasionally overwhelm, it serves to maintain the high stakes and the palpable sense of urgency.

The portrayal of societal collapse is unnerving, yet its potential reality underscores the importance of our actions concerning resource management and sustainability.

“Dry” is not a comfortable read, but it is an important one.

It serves as a potent reminder of the consequences of our current lifestyle and the need for change.

The moral dilemmas it presents and the actions of its characters under duress make us question what we would do in a similar situation.

Would we hold onto our humanity or would survival instincts take over?

As for recommending the book, “Dry” is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy thought-provoking narratives, dystopian settings, and character-driven stories.

It’s a must-read for those who appreciate literature that forces introspection and challenges the status quo.

The realism and gravity of the theme, however, mean it might not be suitable for readers looking for light-hearted escapism.

Our Rating

In terms of storytelling and character development, “Dry” by Neal Shusterman scores a strong 4.5 out of 5.

Shusterman has the ability to create believable, relatable characters, which is evident in the evolution of Alyssa, Kelton, Garrett, and Jacqui.

As their journey unfolds, each character’s transformation and the human emotions they express enhance the overall appeal of the narrative.

The plot, with its escalating tension and plausible dystopian scenario, merits a rating of 4.7 out of 5.

The “Tap-Out” concept is well-researched and presented, making the terrifying reality of a water shortage both palpable and engaging to readers.

However, the intense pace of the narrative, while contributing to the overall urgency of the situation, can occasionally seem overwhelming, hence the slightly less-than-perfect score.

In terms of theme and relevance, “Dry” stands out with a solid 5 out of 5.

The book’s exploration of a potential water crisis is not just timely but crucial in today’s context.

Shusterman’s ability to weave a compelling narrative around such a relevant issue amplifies the book’s overall impact.

The writing style of Shusterman in “Dry” is gripping, and descriptive, and evokes a wide range of emotions, earning a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

His vivid depictions of a dehydrated California and the desperation of its residents bring the narrative to life.

However, certain sections could have benefitted from a bit more depth and detail to allow readers a breather amidst the intense pacing.

Overall, I would rate “Dry” by Neal Shusterman a 4.7 out of 5.

The minor criticisms do not take away from the fact that “Dry” is a compelling, thought-provoking read.

It’s a book that not only entertains but also educates, raising awareness about a potential global crisis, making it a standout addition to the genre of dystopian literature.