When I started this book, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had read a few reviews that were very positive and I'd heard the hype. I was really excited for it. But I just wasn't sure if I would connect with the story or if this post-apocalyptic world would work. After being burned a few times, especially in the YA science-fiction world, it's hard to know what to expect. But I can say that this book was everything all of those great reviews said it would be: grim, dark, dramatic, and intense. This book delivers.
The scariest part of this book is the setting. In the not-too-distant future, Lynn lives in a world where water is sparse. Luckily for her, she has a pond in her backyard. Unluckily, not everyone does. And those who don't want what she has. She killed her first person when she was nine. But it's all she's known. As long as she has been alive, she's lived in the basement of the little house with the pond with just her mother. They work for their lives, purifying the water they have, harvesting the food they grow in their gardens, canning it for winter, killing their meat, and protecting their pond. Lynn's mother taught her how to do everything and raised her to survive. But there are new threats to their pond. And Lynn works hard to survive under new conditions and learns that maybe survival isn't the only thing worth living for.
The characters in this book really drive the story. Lynn is a little naive but has grown up knowing only her mother and their little area of land. She has never ventured farther than where her mother can see. She has never spoken to another person, except briefly when she was younger to Stebbs, their only neighbor who lives across the fields in his own shack. Otherwise, men are seen as a threat and killed on the spot. Things have been done the same way for as long as Lynn has lived. But when her situation changes, she must change as well. Thanks to Stebbs, who steps in and helps out, whether Lynn wants it or not, and some newcomers from the city, Lynn has a chance to look at the world, and her little pond, a little bit differently. I liked how quickly she was willing to accept that maybe things in her world weren't the absolute only way to do things. I liked how she welcomed others and learned that being alone isn't always the best. And I also liked that we finally learned more about her mother. There are always reasons for why people do things the way they do and learning about those reasons adds so much to their character. I also liked Eli and Lucy and immediately felt protective of them. All of the characters were such individuals and they all added something important to the story.
The writing in this book, like the summary says, is spare. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant before reading it but it turns out they weren't lying. The book gets right to the point. There are no extraneous words here. Every word is used and meant for a reason. And they will cut you. Along with being spare it is also grim and shocking and bleak and scary and every synonym for merciless. It's a little funny because spare can also mean to show mercy and this book shows no mercy for its readers. So be prepared. I knew the book would be dark but I did not expect the ending that came. But even as brutal as it was, I enjoyed reading a book by an author that didn't coddle its readers. It was nice to just get the story, good and bad and everything else.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. I know the YA sci-fi genre has gotten pretty saturated recently, but this one is definitely worth reading. It's quick, dark, emotional, and, most importantly, not that far off from a possible future reality for us. Also, this book is a standalone and perfect for the times you want to read a story from beginning to end without having to pick up three or more books. We see Lynn develop from young and naive survivalist to an older and more understanding adult. We get glimpses of the world outside her pond, but the real story lies within Lynn and her pond and that's the story we become attached to and want to read about. If you pick this one up, I really hope you like it. But don't blame me when it destroys you a little. I warned you!
Thanks to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.