Reader Gut Reaction: A surprisingly hopeful dystopia - not exactly a happy ending, as there are some horrific losses and details not tidily tied up, but a solid debut novel, and the first in a realistic dystopian series.
Kira's life has been spent knowing that water isn't something to play with. It isn't something to wash in too often, either. And forget about plants - it's illegal to grow things for personal use, and nobody can grow flowers. Water is just too precious for that, and is rigidly controlled and rationed.
Concerning Character: Kira is difficult, and a loner -- or so she's always been told. It might be because in the girls' home where she lives, she rarely gets space or privacy, and the rumor persists that her mother was a freak. When Kira discovers a tiny wildflower growing outside, she hoards water for its survival, harvesting even her spit to help keep it alive. This discovery is worth the risk of making a friend, but her change in behavior has other girls circling suspiciously.
And then, Kira makes a terrifying discovery... that leads to a betrayal and a change in her life which forces her to question everything she's ever known. The world has lost water - but it wasn't a loss. The water was polluted and ruined. It might be that the world can be made right again -- but is it Kira who can make it right?
Recommended for Fans Of...: Drought, by Pam Bachorez, Water Wars by Cameron Stracher, or Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries series.
Themes & Things: Traditional dystopian motifs abound, including first being seduced by, then later subverting the power of the state. Kira's eventual escape is a happy surprise, and her decision to partner with those who have suffered to benefit the great good reminds me a lot of Tally Youngblood's determination in Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld.
Cover Chatter: The girl's face in cracked earth makes for a great cover - it works, and though it's been done before - generally for lotion commercials - it makes the points needed.
Amusingly, this book is put out by CBAY Books - and the letters stand for Children's Brains Are Yummy. Sadly, there are no zombies in this novel...
You can find DRY SOULS at an independent bookstore near you!