Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman – Book Review

In the real world, we are seeing Greta Thunberg leading the fight to try to halt (or at least reduce) climate change, and the ugly responses of adults who don’t want to hear this message, least at all to hear it from a 16-year-old who seems to be impervious to all their horrible words. Then I read Dry, the dystopian novel set in the not too distant future in California when the taps have run dry, and it feels like, with our current approach to climate change, we’re almost there.

“The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.” When Alyssa and her mother discover that the water is off in their house, they think it must be due to Alyssa’s father’s mysterious attempts at DIY plumbing. The news reports suggest that this is a temporary problem and that everyone simply needs to remain calm and reduce water usage, but it is quickly apparent that it is far too late for that. There’s no water in the taps and hardly anyone is prepared for this. When the desalination machines are going to be switched on at the beach, Alyssa’s parents go to get water for the family leaving her in charge of her little brother, Garrett. But when they don’t come back, it soon becomes clear that they are going to need to fend for themselves.

I was recommended this book by my local council librarian who said she was unable to keep it on the shelf, and I can totally see why. It feels so real – from the gradual realisation of just how big this disaster is to the way human nature takes over as a thirst that kills starts to take over. The characters have the time to express their annoyance that this whole disaster could have been avoided if the politicians had addressed the problems that were clearly coming rather than focusing on money. Sound familiar?

In July, ABC news reported that several towns in Northern NSW and Southern QLD were close to running out of water. At the start of September, The Guardian Australian reported that things are looking very dire. A year ago, Cape Town in South Africa narrowly avoided running out of water through strict usage measures  and there are further measures being implemented. Will we see a Tap-Out in our lifetime? I feel like it is inevitable, especially with so many world leaders remaining climate change sceptics and refusing to address the need for change. And don’t get me started on the recent bushfires in Australia that have taken lives, homes and whole communities. I feel as though if climate denying politicians could have the imagination of the Shusterman siblings and see how current policy is potentially leading us down the path of a Tap-Out or one of many other disasters, perhaps real change could happen.

The dedication page reads “This book is dedicated to all those struggling to undo the disastrous effects of climate change”. It is a book which shows how awful things could be… yet keeps hope alive.

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