Drought by Pam Bachorz
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Reading level: Young Adult
Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.
She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.
So she stays.
But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?
-- from Goodreads.com
This was a seriously fantastic story to read. It had so many things going on at different times that it was almost never dull or boring. There were so many things going on that even the narrator wasn't aware of in spite of the fact she was the one telling the story. It was fascinating to watch how Ms. Bachorz wove into the story subtle clues to what would happen in the final 50 or so pages. And let me tell you, the last 50 or so pages flew by so quickly that I found myself on the last page and wishing there were so many more.
The characters in this book began a little underdeveloped for my taste. They were somewhat one-dimensional and flat in the beginning, but perhaps one can forgive that because considering it's told in the first person by someone who has lived the same exhausting, repetitive life for 200 years, everything and everyone around would be sort of monotonous and flat. But as the story develops and new pieces of personalities of those around Ruby come to light, we see the gray life of those who harvest water during a dry and colorless drought bloom into bursts of color. And for someone like me who associates color with personalities, this was a real treat.
I especially loved some of the nuances of Ms. Bachorz's writing that tied in the entire drought theme to how people were feeling. Particularly how the blossoming relationship between Ruby and the Overseer Ford was described, in Ruby's words, as, "It feels as if the air between us is like a tender waterdrop; one more move and it will burst." Their romance is saturated in life and immersed in the wonder that is discovering real and true love for the first time in your life. Some may say it happens too quickly but consider the fact that Ruby is over 200 years old and she's been extremely repressed by the society she lives in. It's only natural that she feel on some subconscious level that those she lives with don't have the same value for her as Ford appears to and that she would cling to that. And she does try to fight it for the sake of duty. It's not until something very strongly and forcefully breaks the bonds between her and some in her community that the dam bursts and Ruby's real desires gush forth.
I think the book could have been a little bit more tightly edited. There are some parts of it that felt added in because YA novels have gotten to be so long now and there just needed to be something more added to elongate the book. I think with about 50 fewer pages of Ruby remembering and lamenting the past and people she lost (whether physically or figuratively) it would have been an even faster, more brilliant read. That said, however, I don't think being a little wordy is such a bad thing. I enjoy Charles Dickens after all!
I found the plot twists in the story to be delicious and I liked being able to come to the slow conclusion of Ruby's situation and her true importance to the Elders of her community along with her. Discovering evil in places she hadn't thought existed along with her was fascinating even if truly saddening for her sake. I think Ms. Bachorz brings a bit of literary elegance to this story by bringing the reader along on a slow burn with some of the subplots and major themes of the novel with bright bursts of action in a way reminiscent of Jane Eyre. It's thoroughly well written and perhaps doesn't have all the over-the-top bells and whistles that some seem to need in their dystopias but I was completely satisfied. The ending wrapped up neatly enough that this could be a stand alone (which you know I love in an ending) but left enough possibility open for at least a second dip into Ruby's world.