Authors: Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman
Cover illustrator: Jay Shaw
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Thriller
Book format: Paperback
Description: EVERYONE’S GOING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THE TAPS DRY.
The drought – or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’t’s: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.
Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This was a brilliant story that took a little time to get into but was very exciting to read and leaves you feeling a little creeped out. Teenager Alyssa and her brother Garrett live in southern California, which has been having problems with water supply for a while. The tap-out, as everyone is calling it, has already forced people to be careful with water, not using it on their lawns, for example, but when the water shortage leads to the taps running completely dry, and bottled water supplies fail, people start to panic.
The story is all told in the first person although it switches between Alyssa and, at first, Kelton who is her neighbour. Kelton’s family is seen as strange by the neighbourhod as they live off-grid and have fixed up their house as if waiting for a disaster to happen. The story feels a little slow to begin with, you get a sense of what is happening with the tap-out and the ever increasing shortage of water but the build up is slow with us finding out more about Alyssa’s and Kelton’s families. It did take me a bit of time to get into the book, especially Kelton’s family and him as a character. This might be because his character’s family is used to owning guns and Kelton himself wasn’t really a character I could relate to in any way, but I’m glad I kept reading on because it soon picks up and becomes much more dramatic (and I got used to Kelton’s character more too).
After Alyssa and Garrett’s parents don’t come back from trying to get some water and the electricity fails the story starts to feel far more movie-like. As well as switching between different characters there are also a few short parts at the the end of some chapters which switch to third person perspective and follow random minor characters. These are called Snapshots and give you a sense of what is happening around California at the time to different characters. Each snapshot features different chracters and it does feel a bit like a disaster movie when you see a bit of background to some random characters which will affect the story later. Some of these characters do indeed make re-appearances later in the story and I like how these mini-chapters really made the whole tale feel more movie like.
I felt like I was watching a disaster movie while reading this and I love the way the tension grips. A little way into the book and I couldn’t put it down! After a while some new characters are added to the story which showed a new perspective on what was happening. At first I have to admit I didn’t like Jacqui’s character, I found her difficult to relate to and unlikeable, but as the story progressed her different character made the whole tale feel more realistic and I like the way she has her own story arc in the book. Henry was interesting at first and I liked the strange perspective his story took, but I have to admit that his story arc and end felt a bit disappointing considering everything that had happened to all the characters.
As the story goes on, everyone becomes increasingly thirsty and it becomes a desperate journey of survival. Towards the end it gets more and more dramatic (as if it wasn’t already) with viewpoints switching after just a few paragraphs, it made the whole ending sequence feel really thrilling, like in a movie and I was amazed at how emotional this whole climax to the story made me feel. I felt like my heart was gripped right at a specific moment and the story was so tense that I thought I was going to gasp and cry all at once. I won’t give away what happens but my heart was in my mouth and then I read some more and I was crying and laughing and crying all at once.
What makes this book so dark and scary is just how realistic the scenario is. Despite not living in southern California, which sometimes faces problems of fires and drought, the idea of the country (wherever you live) running out of water is a terrifying one (or some other important commodity). The story shows how easily society can break down and how dark and almost animalistic people can become in a situation where survival is the only thing that matters. I also felt that fear that Kelton’s family had, of how the state could act in such a situation which makes you think about the actions of both people and the government. I also couldn’t help but want to keep drinking water when reading this book, all the descriptions of how thirsty everyone was getting were pretty vivid and it’s amazing how dark this story got. The ending, while good did leave me feeling a bit disappointed with how short it was.
There are some things in this book which are very dark, like some violence leading to death as well as descriptions of potential deaths and other darker things happening in a society that has broken down. For this reason I wouldn’t advise this book for younger teens and only to those who are a little less sensitive to such things. It’s not the most dark or violent of books, but definitely has things happening, especially near the end which I know I couldn’t have handled as a young teen. There are also a few rare uses of the s swear word.
Overall this is a dark and gripping disaster story and the potential for it to one day be real makes it all the more scary. But, although I really did enjoy the story on the whole, and that dramatic ending wasn’t one I predicted (I thought it was all going to end before it did) I do think the final pages explaining what happened next were a bit short. It was a satisfying conclusion but at the same time I wish this ending section had been a bit longer or ended a little differently. I would have liked to see what happened after they went to see who they were seeing (don’t want to give away a spoiler), or what happened to some of the other more minor characters in the story. I also felt the whole ending to Henry’s story was a bit unbelievable. But overall this was a good, tense, and thrilling read!