Title: In a Handful of Dust
Series: Not a Drop to Drink #2
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Source: Gifted by local used book store owner
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.
Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.
When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.
So, this is a companion novel, more than a sequel, and I think that means “don’t get your hopes up”. I need to remember that in future, because I’ve been nursing a slow-burning ember of excitement for this novel for over a year. And now I feel, more than disappointed, very meh.
The reason I loved Not a Drop to Drink so much is that it pulled no punches. Some of the story and world building was typical dystopian, but the characters combined grit and compassion in ways I found entirely charming. And the whole Eli thing took me so much by surprise that I had to re-read it several times to make sure I understood what had just happened.
Naturally, I was expecting some similar hard choices in this novel. And I’m sad to say, this one lands much closer to the Hollywood dystopian mark than it should. I know Mindy McGinnis is a better writer than this! It’s not poorly written, but it’s rushed, the characters aren’t at all surprising (they project their goodness or badness from the first moment to the last, making everyone’s actions pretty predictable). The big reveal was so hurried it had virtually no impact, and I wasn’t quite sure what the meat of the conflict was. Is it really just an epic(ally bad) road trip?
I also had some red flags in the whole “how does Lynn suddenly know how to drive” and “a few hours’ walk to the ocean?!” and the length of time it takes to walk from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean in general. Maybe it’s because the story was so rushed, but it felt like the Colorado Rockies took them a week to ride through, despite avalanches and elevation sickness and needing to veer off-path for food and water.
It also felt hypocritical that Lynn’s first experience with a boy was going to be her lifelong torch, and then she’s considering a liaison with Fletcher, whose lost wife is his lifelong torch, but he’s also making eyes at Lynn. I think the concept of that torch should be chucked out entirely. These two characters know hardship and both elude to the fact that you should grab happiness when and where you can. I think them both holding a double standard is pointless.
Mostly, though, this book is forgettable. Not a Drop to Drink stayed with me for years. In a Handful of Dust is already fading from memory. I should, if I’m fair, give it a C….but I’m biased because of that long ember of hope. If you liked Not a Drop to Drink, you can skip this one and lose nothing.