Dry

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Dry Book Poster Image
Gripping disaster novel imagines California without water.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Presents realistic picture of what might happen if water suddenly became unavailable in Southern California. Raises questions about self-reliance, community preparedness, impact of climate change.

Positive Messages

Even in the most dire disaster, people are capable of selflessness. Family and friends can work together to protect one another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters have different attitudes about how to manage natural disaster. Alyssa tends to be the most compassionate in the group, but even her sense of morality is tested when situation becomes extreme.

Violence

Violent scenes increase as water runs out. A man is beaten for his car keys. A main character shoots a would-be rapist and his brother. A family member is mistakenly shot, killed. An elderly woman dies in a fire.

Sex

A minor character trades unspecified sexual favors for water. Kelton has had a crush on Alyssa for years. In eighth grade, he used a camera-equipped drone to spy on her in her bedroom.

Language

Infrequent strong language: three or four uses of "hell," "damn," and "a--hole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dry, written by Neal Shusterman and his son, Jarrod Shusterman, is a realistic portrayal of what might happen if Southern California suddenly were to run out of water. As the "Tap-Out" continues, the characters must make difficult decisions about whom to help. Violence increases with thirst, and characters are subjected to beatings, shootings, and fire, frequently fatally. Swearing is infrequent ("hell," "damn," "a--hole"). A minor character trades unspecified sexual favors for water. 

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What's the story?

At the start of DRY, the simple act of turning on a water faucet heralds the arrival of a major diaster. Alyssa's parents assure her and her younger brother, Garrett, that everything will be fine once the authorities arrive with fresh water. But their odd neighbor, survivalist Kelton, believes it will be every person for herself. As people get more desperate and discomfort suddenly veers into tragedy, Alyssa, Garrett, Kelton, and others set out to find a refuge where they'll be safe. To get there, they'll test their courage and humanity, struggling not to descend into mindless violence.

Is it any good?

Lots of readers have climate change on their minds, and this gripping, sophisticated disaster novel vividly shows the perils of rising temperatures. In Dry, the father-son Shusterman team steadily builds the level of suspense as their complex and surprising characters fight to survive. Each member of the cast is multidimensional, and the authors take pains to present them with moral questions that have no easy answers. The novel's ending may strike some readers as a little too easy, but it's satisfying to see these characters mostly rewarded for their bravery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dry depicts the sudden loss of water in Southern California. How soon might society break down in the total absence of drinking water?

  • What resources can be used to be better prepared to deal with a natural disaster? How can neighbors cooperate to ensure each other's safety?

  • How should people decide who receives a portion of a scarce commodity? Should sharing be "all or nothing"? Is it right to use deadly force to protect emergency supplies?

Book details

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