Book Review



  • Author: Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
  • Genre: YA Dystopia
  • Publication Date: October 2, 2018
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

TRIGGER WARNING: violence, exploitation, riot, murder, attempted sexual assault

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Everyone’s going to remember where they were when the taps went dry.

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. 

This book was dark and dramatic, and it was like a slap in the face. I was thirsty the whole time I read it, even as I sat there chugging my water that I had free access to. I will NEVER again take a drink of water without thinking of my privilege and thinking of this book.

How long does it take before civilized people stop acting civilized when access to basic needs, like water, is cut off? Hint: not long. Not very long at all. This is the reality for Alyssa and many others in California when the taps go dry.

Even as the government and media work to assure the public that everything is temporary and that they have nothing to be worried about, not everyone is buying it. And the longer things drag on, panic starts to ensue. Suddenly, Alyssa’s doomsday prepper neighbors don’t seem so strange anymore.

The story is told from various viewpoints, which grow as the story progresses. It’s interspersed with snapshots of different situations, and I really liked the format. Even even though there ultimately winds up being 5 different POVs, each one is so different that there isn’t overlap in voice, which takes a lot of talent. It also gives us insight into what each of the main characters is thinking. That’s important, because each character has their own motivation as the crisis worsens. 

“Suddenly the safe and sane world I thought I knew is filled with terrifying unknowns.” 

The story is fast-paced and full of action. There’s a constant sense of doom, understandably, and it’s really interesting to see how quickly morals break down. Even characters who adhere to their moral code break down at some point — how could a person possibly be forced to choose between their morals and their life? And for people who already have loose morals, that code breaks down completely and devolves into chaos early on. It’s a horrifying prospect to see:

“As a result, I do find myself giving in to more violent, destructive thoughts.”

“‘Sometimes you have to be the monster to survive,’”

The other thing I realized was that when access to basic needs is denied, standards start to drop. Sometimes those standards drop so dramatically, it’s shocking even to the person it happens to, when they realize.

“Funny how the needs of your own body redefine the parameters of what you’d settle for.”

The story was fascinating, but also terrifying. It’s scarier to me than horror usually is, mainly because it isn’t that far off from the truth — this could actually happen at some point. It makes me glad I live in a place where I do have access to water. As I filled up my water glass, I was especially grateful that I have all the clean water I could want, although I won’t be taking it for granted. This is definitely a book that will be sticking with me for a long time.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 12

5 replies »

  1. Great review! I’ve had this on my TBR for a while now and I really should read it despite knowing that it’ll make me really uncomfortable. Or maybe I should read it because of that 😂 Honestly, it’s not a very distant future where water shortages are a reality. Especially since it happened in South Africa already and in many developing countries it’s been an issue for years. Terrifying!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.