A thrilling book that will inspire your students to think about the environment

 Tip:  There are so many things to like about Dry by Neal Shusterman, and if heart-pounding action is what you're looking for, it's got it.  Talk about this one with your students!


A picture of the cover of the book Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

My sixth-grade nephew told me about one of his favorite books by Neal Shusterman.  I had introduced him to the Scythe series, and now he was telling me about Dry.  

FROM THE INSIDE COVER:

The drought - or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it - has been going on for a while now.  Everyone's life has become an endless list of don'ts: don't water the lawn, don't fill up your pool, don't take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly Alyssa's quiet suburban street spirals into a war zone of desperation: neighbors and families turning against one another in the hunt for water.  When her parents don't return, and she and her brother are threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she's going to survive.

WHAT DID I THINK?

The basic premise of the book is based on the environment in California - water shortages and forest fires.  You know that up front.  That alone will grab your students!  In very short order, people are stealing, threatening each other, and fleeing to get to water any way they can.  FEMA fails to realize the magnitude of the problem.

Alyssa, her brother Garrett, and the formerly-thought-of-as-creepy neighbor, Kelton work together to try to find her parents after they go missing, days after they left the house in search of water.

Kelton's father prepared his family, so their family is stocked up and good to go.  Which makes the neighbors jealous and angry.  In a gut-wrenching scene, Kelton, Alyssa, and Garrett are forced to flee the neighborhood to head for the emergency shelter deep in the woods that Kelton's family had built for this eventuality.  

This part of the book was jaw-droppingly frightening!  Note: it does include a murder, not graphically described, but with a shatter-your-heart emotional impact.

Along the way, they pick up Jacqui, a snarky, smart teenager who knows how to get in and out of situations without being noticed.  And Henry, a kid who knows how to make a deal and come out on top.

This unlikely quintet, struggling to figure out who's in charge, runs into one challenge after another trying to get to safety.  

I take water for granted!  What would my family do if we became aware of an impending water shortage?  Dismiss it like many of those families?  Take it seriously?  Start storing bottled water in the basement?  Plan for doomsday like Kelton's family?  

**I almost always had a glass of water with me; the book will make you thirsty!

WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?

Some characters and storylines get introduced (in a different font.)  They just don't add enough to the story for me, and they sometimes felt like a distraction.  Did we need to know about the TV reporter who sneaks out in a helicopter against her producer's wishes?  I didn't think so.  She only served to tell us that crowds were getting desperate.  Which we already knew.

The quintet of kids gets themselves into some unbelievable situations!  And always gets out of them.  That bothers this older reader, but students will probably not notice or care; I think they will love the impossible scrapes these kids get themselves into.

I like happy endings as much as the next person.  This one was a bit unrealistic for me, but I think middle-grade students will love that it ends this way.  My students often talked about how they liked books that ended in a good way, and this one certainly does that.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS?

  1. Students who love action-filled books
  2. Students who struggle to find and stick with a good book
  3. Students who are concerned about their environmental footprint
  4. Students who like the changing dynamics of characters as the plot progresses
  5. Students who like to predict who the good and the bad guys are
  6. Students who want to learn more about drought and fires in California (and elsewhere)
  7. Students who want a book that's hard to put down

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