Not a Drop to Drink
Young Adult Dystopian
I am not huge on dystopian world YA novels. I loved The Hunger Games and Legend. Divergent was OK, and I saw The Maze Runner movie (so you can see my investment waning).
Not a Drop to Drink scales the focus way, way back from governments and factions to one girl and her mother, who live off the grid and spend virtually every waking moment defending their freshwater pond, as water is scarce. Sixteen-year-old Lynn has known nothing else other than her remote farm, her mother, and a nearby neighbor they are on cautiously friendly terms.
Until Lynn loses her mother (not a spoiler, it happens early), and she is on her own. When people camping nearby need medical attention, Lynn and her neighbor go to help. Only Lynn has been taught not to trust anyone. Even leaving her pond for an hour sets the tension high. Distant smoke sets off alarm bells, and stories of men traveling in packs to steal and destroy cause Lynn to further distrust. Every page there is survival, fear, and determination, and Lynn's struggle between her newfound compassion for others and the strict teachings of her mother provide a boatload of tension.
Warning here: there are some intense scenes in this book, and I will state right out that while there is a romantic thread, this is not a romance. While there is a hopeful ending, this is not a happy shiny rainbows type of book. If you're cool with that, I wholly recommend this book for showing the emotional impact of a post-apocalyptic world-gone-wrong, and one where you don't need to roll your eyes at forced world building. The fears built up in this world are human nature at its core, and that's compelling enough when it's written this well.
The author's companion novel In a Handful of Dust is available as of September 2014.