"No one does doom like Neal Shusterman—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away ... Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst." Read a free sampler of the latest book by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and his son, Jarrod Shusterman. 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 take long showers, don't panic. Until the taps run dry. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbours and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.
In Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead) and son Jarrod's near-future or alternate-present America, a prolonged drought ("the Tap-Out") results in the sudden curtailment of Southern California's water supply. When their parents vanish while seeking desalinated water, 16-year-old Alyssa and 10-year-old Garrett embark on a harrowing journey, searching for their parents and fending for themselves as society deteriorates. Along the way, the siblings pick up three teens: their survivalist neighbor Kelton, unpredictable lone wolf Jacqui, and calculating opportunist Henry. This thriller alternates between the teens' distinct and plausible viewpoints, occasionally supplementing with brief "snapshots" of others (a fleeing family, a news anchor) dealing with the escalating catastrophe. The dynamic core-character relationships are satisfying, and the intersection of their narrative with the snapshots adds depth to briefly glimpsed characters and illuminates the full scale of the disaster. The lack of warning before the long-looming crisis breaks may require some initial suspension of disbelief, but the palpable desperation that pervades the plot as it thunders toward the ending feels true, giving it a chilling air of inevitability. It is also thoroughly effective as a study of how extreme circumstances can bring out people's capacity for both panic and predation, ingenuity and altruism. Ages 12 up.