Favorite Book Feature: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

It’s the last Friday of the August, which means it’s time for another Favorite Book Feature! This year I’ve been featuring one of my favorite books on the last Friday of every month, telling you why it’s one of my favorites. You can find the full list of my favorite books here. August’s featured book is Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis.

McGinnis’s debut novel is an eerie dystopia set in Ohio after a water shortage and contamination left many without water. Lynn was taught how to survive by her mother, and together they have protected their pond from every threat: drought, water contamination, coyotes, and people looking for a drink. Out of desperation, Lynn’s mother taught her to survive—how to shoot a rifle, purify water, hunt, and protect the house—but not much more than that. Not how to live.

But when her mother dies in an accident and when smoke on the horizon means a new threat, Lynn must reach out to others for the first time in her life. As she develops relationships with her neighbors and takes in a young girl who’s mother can’t care for her, Lynn slowly learns how to really live, not just survive in a dangerous world.

The main reason I love this book is because of the lean language McGinnis uses. The book has spare language, which reflects the barrenness of the environment. The book is easy to read, and does a beautiful job conveying all of the danger, emotions, and romance of the story.

I think McGinnis does a fantastic job creating her characters. Each of them is unique, from rough Mother and sensitive Stebbs to devastated Neva and hopeful Lucy. And I loved watching all of the relationships change and grow over the course of the book. My favorite of these relationships was that between Lynn and Lucy, whom Lynn takes in after her mother can’t care for her anymore. Lynn starts off treating Lucy the way her mother treated her—with a cold distance and a focus on survival. But Lucy’s youth brings so much life and hope to the house, and Lucy helps Lynn grow.

I also love this book because of how it’s a post-apocalyptic survival story. I’ve really been into reading survival stories like this lately, and Not a Drop to Drink does not disappoint. This book is definitely one of the more plausible dystopian stories out there, and it’s interesting to watch how someone survives in that world. It makes you really think about what you would do in the same situation. And I’m glad that Lynn moves beyond just surviving and learns how to really live.

I can’t wait to read the companion novel, In a Handful of Dust, set a decade after Not a Drop to Drink and told from now-teenage Lucy’s perspective.

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Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

What I’m Reading – Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson continues to amaze me with each book of hers that I read. Prom is no exception. With Prom, Anderson gives a character that you can really relate to. Ashley is a “normal” girl. She doesn’t care too much about school, she has a large family, she has a crappy job and an even crappier boyfriend, and she really doesn’t care about the prom.

Her best friend, Natalia, however, is on the prom committee and is devastated when the math teacher steals all of the prom money. Then Ashley finds herself roped into helping her school put on the prom anyway with no budget and just about everything against them. Prom is truly a modern Cinderella story, as Ashley makes it to the ball despite everything and learns a lot about what she wants for her life.

Prom, like all of Anderson’s books, pulls you in with its unique voice and doesn’t let you go. I couldn’t put the book down. What I really enjoyed about this book was how real it felt. I felt like I was in Ashley’s school with her, and all I wanted was to help her find the right path for her life. Plus it made me laugh out loud that the slippers she wore to the ball/prom were, in fact, slippers.

Laurie Halse Anderson has quickly become one of my favorite authors and is such an influence on my own writing, and I just found out that she’s coming to Dayton on a book tour in a of couple weeks. I can’t believe I get to meet her!

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Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

What I’m Reading: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

In her blurb on the cover of The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork, author Stephanie Perkins claims that “This book might just save your life.” I don’t think this claim could be any more accurate.

With this story, Stork gives an honest portrayal of mental illness. The book begins when Vicky wakes up in the hospital after a suicide attempt, but it is not about why she tried to kill herself. The Memory of Light instead explores how you can go on living afterwards.

This book is unlike any other I have read that deals with the subject of mental illness. Inspired by the author’s own experience with depression, this book digs deep into Vicky’s mind and looks at how depression is a fog that clouds her thoughts. Yet despite the pain in her life, Vicky meets friends at the hospital who are going through similar things, and, with their help, Vicky finds reasons to keep on living.

Writing about depression is hard. It’s been a subject I’ve wanted to tackle for a long time, but I’ve only ever managed to write a short story about it. I really admire Stork’s raw and honest approach to such a difficult topic. I will look to this book as inspiration when I eventually tackle this subject myself in a novel. The Memory of Light is definitely a great read if you want an inside look on living with depression, and a must-read if you have had any experience with this illness.

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The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

What I’m Reading: Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’m sad that I went so long without reading any books by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I am so glad that someone recommended her to me. I’ve read five of her books so far, and I’ve loved each and every one of them. Her novel Speak was a huge inspiration for the novel I just wrote. And I can’t wait to read the rest of her books, which have been sitting on my to be read pile for the last three months.

I just finished her novel Fever, 1793, which is about the yellow fever epidemic of Philadelphia in 1793. The novel is about Mattie Cook, a fourteen year old who has big dreams of running her family’s coffeehouse business. However, the fever interrupts her plans and forces her to focus on mere survival.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read historical fiction, though it used to be my favorite genre. I ate up American Girl and Dear America novels when I was in middle school. I think this might be the first historical fiction book I’ve read since then, and it made me remember why I loved the genre.

Anderson makes you feel like you’re in 1793 Philadelphia. She takes you into Mattie’s world and shows you what it’s like to be a coming-of-age girl at this time. And she shows you the heartbreaking tragedy of the epidemic. Anderson kept me turning pages, dying to know what would happen to Mattie.

Mattie’s story is very inspiring. She faces heartbreak after heartbreak as each member or her family, including herself, falls victim to the fever. Yet she perseveres, and still fights for her dream of running the coffeehouse. I highly recommend this story about a girl coming into her own in the face of tragedy.

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Fever by Laurie Halse Anderson