Ten years after Not a Drop to Drink (2013), the orphan Lynn rescued is a teenager forced to set out on a dangerous, cross-country journey.
Protagonist Lucy, Lynn’s adopted daughter, and the expanded community have flourished in the hard-won peace. Their serenity’s forever ruptured when a polio outbreak ravages their population, killing and crippling indiscriminately. The disease’s spread is charted to identify the source, and Lucy’s love interest is identified as the most likely, an unknowing asymptomatic carrier who now faces exile (and crippling guilt). There’s a miniscule chance it could be Lucy though, so she must leave as well. Due to a sticky situation involving an unstable, paranoid woman, as well as the mother-child bond, Lynn accompanies Lucy on a dangerous trip to California, where it’s rumored there are desalination plants and electricity. The two encounter multiple people of various moral standards and threat levels, nature’s obstacles and, of course, the water shortage that destroyed civilization. Throughout it all, Lucy clings to her optimism, especially the hope that she can rescue her love interest. Ultimately, the novel is concerned with the differences between staying alive and living—with Lynn and Lucy, and their rich dynamic, representing both sides. Tension’s maintained by constant, subtle foreshadowing (rather than transparent cliffhangers), and the characters rarely feel safe enough for readers to relax.
Hard to put down. (Adventure. 13 & up)