Review: In A Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinness

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Title: In A Handful of Dust
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: post apocalyptic
Series: Not A Drop to Drink #2
Pages: 384
Published: September 2014
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 3/5

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.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Mindy McGinnis has a great imagination and she likes to take risks with her writing and characters. It's for these two reasons that I keep trying her books, though I've yet to find one of the three that really clicks with me as a reader. I'm willing to give her more of a chance because she is an author that doesn't do what you expect and that makes her stories different and memorable. Not A Drop to Drink was a strong debut and series opener and though this book is set 10 years later, it hardly misses a step settling back with these characters.

This time around, Lucy is 16ish, and Lynn is now somewhere in her late twenties. Having adapted as much as possible in the years since the end of book one, their small community soon faces a new but unrelenting foe for book two: disease and sickness. It's a brutal book and characters drop often, or face harsh realities in dealing with new issues. McGinnis wasn't as cutthroat as I wanted with the main character body count, but she still makes the book hurt. It took a couple chapters for the plot to engage and for the pacing to settle, but once it does, this is a pretty smooth read.

Lynn is pragmatic, determined, and smart. Her characterization remains pretty much the same from who she was in Not A Drop to Drink and doesn't change much over the course of this second novel. She's also quite the feminist ("We hear you shoot like a man." "You heard wrong. I shoot like a woman.") and she is entirely capable in the wild. This time around, though, it is Lucy's show. Almost an adult and with a secret to protect, Lucy is both a reminder of Lynn as a teen and a foil for the adult version of Lynn. Their dynamic of a found family comes into  play a lot over the book but their bond is strong, though still tested.

In A Handful of Dust was a pretty good book but I can't help but feel that it was unnecessary. I'm glad that Mindy McGinnis handled it well and didn't rehash the exact same plot as Not A Drop to Drink but it lacks the punch and the shock that started and ended the first. 

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