Author: Pam Bachorz
Publisher: Egmont USA
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?
I don't even know what to write right now. I am so frustrated, and confused, and just plain irritated with Drought that I can't even form a coherent thought about it. It's just...Cults!...brainwashing! Slavery! Drinking Blood...romance! Ok, sorry...I'll start from the beginning and see if I make any more sense than that...
The premise of the book is really interesting. I approached it with such high hopes because it sounded so awesome. I love all the dark, somber, and desperate moods and themes of the dystopian genre, and Drought seemed to have everything I could have wanted. There's slaves, and evil overseers, and a messiah who happens to be missing. Plus the fact that the messiah and his daughter Ruby's blood keeps his followers from ever aging or dying. Yet with all of that potential awesomeness, I found myself dragging along as I read the book. I would count pages and think to myself "only 100 more to go, only 75 more to go." So then I sat for a minute and thought about what it was that I could possibly be hating on... The prose was descriptive and chock full of beautiful imagery, the book was well written with a very interesting and flowing writing style, but for some reason, the entire thing fell flat. Then I realized that I had no idea why anything was happening or where the plot was going. When you spend an entire novel wondering why you're even bothering to read it, I guess you can't really enjoy yourself too much can you?
For one thing, the characters in this book are entirely too passive for a dystopian novel. I understand if a group has been enslaved by some vicious dictator and they won't fight back out of fear, or the world has degraded to a point where people are desolate shams of their former selves and they don't even remember how to fight back, but the characters in this book just take the abuse and roll with it. Apparently these people believe in a god, also known as Otto. His blood allows them to live forever, but he left them. So now they drink his daughters blood while slaving to get water for a monstrous overseer, suffering and in pain, all while they wait for a god that they haven't seen in over 200 years. That's right, they've been scraping plants with spoons from dawn till dusk for over 200 years. While being verbally abused by overseers and viciously beaten when they fail to meet the water quota. Did I mention that they stopped changing when Otto left them so they are dressed as if it's 1811 rather than 2011? That sounds confusing, but the general feeling I get from it was a book set in today's society, only centered on a supernatural Amish side cult. They don't DO anything but scrape water off the plants, because if the overseer found out that it was actually Ruby's blood that let the people live forever, who knows what would happen.
I just couldn't understand why these 50 or so "Congregants" would allow themselves to be so abused when they were supposedly the chosen people. Apparently they all met this "Otto" in the year 1812, where he did something to convince them that he was a god, knocked up Ruby's mom with Ruby, then disappeared. The Congregation fled to the woods to avoid Ruby's mom's other suitor, who followed them and then enslaved them so he could have the "water" that healed them and kept them alive. Not once is there any evidence that Otto will come back, yet all the people say it is their purpose to "endure in silence". Otto never said that they shouldn't fight slavery, or that he was ever coming back, or that they should put up with abuse from his baby-momma's ex, but apparently they instinctually know what Otto wants so they allow themselves to be worked to the bone, starved, and all they do the entire time was pray to Otto to save them. So essentially, you feel this intense dislike towards the characters that you're supposed to be siding with, because they are brainwashed sheep with no real reason for doing anything that they are doing. Only they can collect the Water that the overseers need so badly. Only they know the secret about how to make the water. Yet they let some random dude starve them for weeks, beat them until they pass out, and withhold basic human comforts. Um...why not just be like..."No dude...if you want my magic water, then you're going to have to feed me freaking creme brule and caviar and stuff." And if he threatened them? Well...tough cookies! He can't kill them or he wouldn't get his precious water...the people of the Congregation could just leave or stop their slavery at any time and absolutely none of them seem to realize it. All they do is pray constantly, in a very creepy and repetitive manner, for Otto to return.
Even the main character Ruby just wanders throughout the story. She kind of flows from scene to scene, always watching, never doing. She just feels. You will experience the death of what amounts to her grandma, and all you get from her is an intense feeling of anger and sadness. Does she fight back to avenge the death? No. Does she start planning a way to save her people from slavery? No. All she does is walk around observing things and people. Even when she is actually physically engaged in a task, you really don't get that she's doing anything at all. It made for a pretty boring and repetitive book. Her relationship with Ford was odd too. Though I thought it was sweet and enjoyed the description of their romance, Ruby doesn't DO anything about her feelings. Sure she makes out with Ford behind the water cisterns, but when it comes to finding a way of using his help or showing Ford her world, she just...doesn't do anything. Again, she just walks around watching the overseers beat Ford and her mother, then thinks about what would happen if she ran away with Ford, then watches as the Elders of the congregation beat Ford to a bloody pulp (which was weird because the entire book they preached non-violence even against those that abused them, and Ford had never laid a hand on them...) I was just so underwhelmed by Ruby's character that I almost wished for her to do something to redeem herself...like die or something...just to save myself from the pain and agony of complete and total inaction.