Last year I loved Not a Drop to Drink because I really enjoy (post-)apocalyptic stories. I love the survivalist aspect of them, and the fact that humans are often a bigger threat than any natural disaster or virus. Originally, Not a Drop to Drink was going to be a standalone novel, and I think that would have been absolutely fine. McGinnis ended it perfectly. However, she obviously decided to expand the world and write a companion novel, and I must say that I approve of this choice!
I loved that we got to see Lyn again, and to see more of her now that she’s all grown up. McGinnis has done a really good job with her characterisation because even though Lyn has grown up, at her core she’s still the same person and she has remained a consistent character. She seemed so natural, and her feelings and her actions made so much sense after the events of the first book.
Lucy is the new protagonist and the point of view character for In a Handful of Dust. I must admit, I was a little hesitant at first because in this companion novel we see the world, and also Lyn, from Lucy’s eyes, and it’s drastically different from Lyn’s image of everything. Whereas Lyn is more closed off and hesitant to step out of her routine, Lucy is passionate about exploring and discovering what else lies outside her little settlement in the east.
Lucy provided a great contrast to Lyn throughout the novel, as the latter was distrustful and sceptical whereas Lucy was more open and innocent. She still had the skills necessary to survive in this world, but she was more willing to see the good in people instead of instantly declaring them the enemy and wanting to destroy the threat.
It is said that this book is more of a companion novel to Not a Drop to Drink than a sequel, and that is true… but only to an extent. I think it’s best to read Not a Drop to Drink before reading In a Handful of Dust because you would get a lot more out of this one if you do. I think someone who read Not a Drop to Drink first would be more understanding of Lyn and obviously her backstory. However, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to read McGinnis’ debut first, and if you want to jump right into this book then you should go right ahead.
The world in In a Handful of Dust has been expanded immensely, due to the characters’ journey across what was once the USA to the west coast. Again, this was a fantastic contrast to Not a Drop to Drink because in that book everything is very closed off and centred around Lyn and her pond. This tied in nicely with both Lyn and Lucy’s personalities.
Loved the ending, but I am a little disappointed to hear that there isn’t going to be a third book. The ending is left very open in regards to a certain character, and I want to know what happens to them. It makes it seem like it’s going to be a sequel, but McGinnis says that’s not the case. Maybe the publisher will buy the third book. Or maybe the character’s adventure will come back in the form of short stories.
There is still a lot of this world to discover, such as the South, more about a certain new character, perhaps some more information of the water crisis as it was happening… there is so much potential there. But whatever, that’s not important. What is important that In a Handful of Dust is chilling, brutal, harsh, and one of the best post-apocalyptic stories I have ever read.