Dry Summary

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman is a young adult novel about a group of teens dealing with the effects of a water crisis called the Tap-Out.

  • When access to water is shut off across California, Alyssa Morrow and her younger brother, Garrett, go looking for their parents along with their neighbor Kelton.
  • Joined by a drifter named Jacqui and a boy named Henry, they drive toward Kelton’s family’s emergency shelter but find it empty of supplies.
  • Henry betrays the others, who are saved from dehydration and forest fires by a water bomber. After the Tap-Out, the Morrow family is reunited.


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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

Dry takes place in California over the course of six days. Teenager Alyssa Morrow lives in a suburban neighborhood with her parents, her uncle Basil, and her younger brother, Garrett. The television informs them that the state of California is to undergo a catastrophic drought for an indefinite period of time, referred to as the “Tap-Out.” None of the taps in the state of California yield will water any longer. That same afternoon, Alyssa, Garrett, and their uncle Basil drive to Costco to stock up. The store is all out of water, but luckily, Alyssa has the idea to fill up their cart with sacks of ice.

Kelton McCracken, Alyssa’s next-door neighbor, helps her plug their downstairs bathtub with sealant. There, they store the bags of ice. Kelton then brags about how his father has prepared them well for the Tap-Out.

On the second day, Richard McCracken, Kelton’s father, has a tense conversation with one of the neighbors, who tries to convince Richard to share his resources with the rest of the neighborhood. At night, Alyssa catches her uncle Basil leaving in his pickup truck. He reasons that he doesn’t want to deplete their resources.

On the third day, Garrett accidentally drops bleach inside their bathtub of ice water. Mr. and Mrs. Morrow prepare to leave for Laguna Beach, where the government has set up desalination machines to convert seawater to drinkable water.

Richard has a heated exchange with a neighbor who has come to him for water, and Kelton shoots the neighbor with his paintball gun before the situation can escalate. At dinner that night, Richard and his wife, Marybeth, fight over whether to share their resources with the neighbors. Meanwhile, Kelton goes to check on Alyssa and Garrett.

At the Morrows’, the power suddenly goes out. Kelton realizes that the power outage extends to the whole neighborhood–except for his house, which has its own generator. He retrieves a handgun from under his bed and stays the night with Alyssa and Garrett.

On the fourth day, Alyssa, Garret, and Kelton decide to bike to Laguna Beach and search for Mr. and Mrs. Morrow. The three are astonished to find the beach deserted, with military personnel guarding the broken desalination machines. They then try to rescue a middle-aged man from three teenagers who want the keys to his BMW. In the midst of the altercation, a strange girl appears and takes hold of Kelton’s gun. She uses it to scare away the perpetrators and obtain the man’s keys. Spotting the infected wound on her arm, Kelton offers to give the girl antibiotics if she drives them home.

The strange girl introduces herself as Jacqui. The four use the man’s BMW to drive back to the McCrackens’, where Kelton convinces his parents to shelter Alyssa, Garrett, and Jacqui. With Marybeth’s blessing, Alyssa smuggles a bag full of water bottles to the neighborhood meeting. There, she sees how the adults fight over her water.

At dinner, Richard announces that he, Marybeth, and Kelton will be leaving for their bug-out–an emergency shelter–at daybreak. On Kelton’s insistence, Richard agrees to leave the house to Alyssa and the others. A text alert then informs them that the state of California has been placed under martial law.

That night, they are awakened by the sound of motion detector alarms. Dozens of people stand outside the McCracken house. An intruder opens the front door, and Richard fires at him without thinking. It turns out to be Brady, Kelton’s older brother, come to warn them about the mob. As Richard and Marybeth grieve over Brady’s body, the mob runs inside to raid the house. Alyssa, Garrett, Jacqui, and Kelton climb into the BMW. Since they need four-wheel drive to reach the bug-out, they decide to borrow Uncle Basil’s truck.

On the fifth day, the four arrive at Dove Canyon, where Uncle Basil is staying with his girlfriend, Daphne. They discover that Uncle Basil, Daphne, and the other residents of the subdivision are sick with dysentery from having consumed contaminated water. Uncle Basil reveals that he had traded his truck for bottles of Agua Viva with Henry, a teenager living in a “McMansion” up the hill. The four muscle their way into Henry’s home and demand the truck back. Henry buys his way into their group with a large sealed box of what he claims to be Agua Viva bottles. In truth, only Agua Viva brochures are inside.

On their way to the bug-out, the group encounters a roadblock manned by military personnel. They are herded into an overcrowded evacuation center, but Henry finds a way to retrieve their truck, and all five of them are able to escape.

A few hours before nightfall, the group discovers the truck is low on gas. They decide to drive back to the freeway to siphon gasoline from abandoned cars. There, they come across a camp of civilians led by Charity, the “Water Angel.” Charity helps them acquire gasoline, and they stay the night in her encampment.

The group arrives at the bug-out the next day. However, they are dismayed to find the food and water stores all empty. Kelton deduces that Brady must have stayed there for months prior to the Tap-Out. Left with no choice, they open Henry’s box of Agua Viva. Upon discovering that he has tricked them, Kelton subdues Henry and binds his wrists.

They decide to travel to the San Gabriel Dam, which is just ten miles west. On the way there, they spot two dangerous-looking men beside a camper. Henry escapes from the group and steals the truck keys, which he trades with the men for a sip of water. Before the men are able to take the truck, however, Kelton shoots them both dead.

About a mile away from the reservoir, they are forced to leave the truck behind, and a wildfire appears in their path. Jacqui chooses to walk through the fire, but Alyssa, Garrett, and Kelton go around it and climb up a steep hill. When they reach the top, however, they find themselves stranded on a cliff. The three feel hopeless and resign themselves to death. Suddenly, a water bomber flying overhead showers them with water, putting out the fire behind them. They quench their thirst on the falling water.

The epilogue takes place two weeks after the Tap-Out. Alyssa and Garrett are reunited with Mr. and Mrs. Morrow, and Kelton and Alyssa have grown to be close friends. Finally, it is hinted that Jacqui is alive and recovering in a hospital from her burns.

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