Writing this first blog post feels incredibly surreal. I planned on starting a blog prior to starting my Instagram account, yet for many reasons I pushed the blog off long after falling in love with the Bookstagram world. For me, it feels like both a reflective and initiative action finally getting this blog off into the world.
To gather inspiration for this post, I scrolled through my Bookstagram feed and marveled at the fact that I have been on there for nearly two years. Two years of dreaming up this blog, and now it’s happening!
In the last two years, I married my best friend, worked a shifting combination of five (or more) jobs, had the good fortune of watching my beloved nephew grow from a baby to a toddler, and go through the exciting and challenging milestone of buying our first home, a townhouse that I love and have been putting together a library in. Oh, yes, and the pandemic happened too.
When I was scrolling through my prolific Bookstagram account, I stopped when I saw the post this picture belonged to and my eyes went to Neal Shusterman’s Dry. That’s when I knew that I wanted to address the elephant in the room; really, there hasn’t been a day that has gone by in the last year that I haven’t thought of the pandemic as I have been quarantined at home for all of this time.
When March of 2020 hit, I was teaching Dry written by Neal Shusterman, author of the Arc of a Scythe series, and his son Jarrod Shusterman. I had read the book and decided it would be a fun way to get students engaged in their reading — who doesn’t love a good dystopian tale?
Publisher’s Synopsis: “When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival. The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have 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 warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.”
While the environmental disaster is different from the medial one we all faced, the parallels between the book and reality caused both my students and I to be alarmed. In the book, when the water runs out, teenage protagonist, Alyssa heads to Costco and faces panicked shoppers desperately buying whatever fluids they can get their hands on. A few weeks prior to the start of quarantine, when the coronavirus was something happening in China and not something we thought we had to worry about, my students and I discussed how this seemed like a logical thing that many people would do and that the book did a good job of showing how ugly people can turn in an emergency. Cut to me walking through Target and seeing shelf after shelf bare a few days before I went into self-quarantine, reading news articles about people becoming violent over the last pack of toilet paper; maybe I hadn’t picked the right time for this book after all?
While this book will forever be tied to a chaotic time in my personal timeline, I still think that this is a book worth reading. Having read Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, this book falls into his general writing techniques with a mix of different media styles: regular novel chapters broken by news reports and glimpses into other characters. I also found it fascinating and heart warming that he wrote this book with one of his grown children. While I didn’t detect too much of his son’s voice in the book; Neal Shusterman described the brainstorming that they did together.
I thought about this book again a few months ago when a significant part of Texas lost their power. In the book, California loses their water due to the greed and failures of many politicians. While many of us dystopian lovers enjoy these what if stories; Dry is one that reads as all too possible. In fact, in the article “Fiction Frighteningly Reflects Fact in ‘Dry'” by Sally Lodge of Publishers Weekly, the Shusterman writing duo related hearing of the critical water shortage in Cape Town halfway through writing the book. Stated in the same article, “The authors agreed that the plot became increasingly pertinent as the book’s pub date approached. ‘Unfortunately, Dry is becoming more and more relevant every day,’ Jarrod observed. ‘It seems there’s always a freak typhoon, earthquake, or drought. And when it comes to drought, Cape Town isn’t alone. São Paulo, Beijing, Moscow, and even Mexico City might tap-out next. It’s terrifying when fiction becomes reality.’” The timeliness and the importance in acknowledging climate change and environmental crisis has never been more pressing; this makes Dry an excellent book to read for a book club, a classroom, and of course for the pleasure reader seeking out a book with a critical message.
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Please tell me below, what book were you reading when the pandemic struck?