Who is the antagonist in Dry by Neal Shusterman?

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The antagonist in Dry by Neal Shusterman is the massive water crisis called the Tap-Out. What makes this particular antagonist so difficult to deal with is that it's a natural disaster.

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An antagonist can be a particularly difficult opponent if they are smart, clever, and ruthless. But if the antagonist in question happens to be a natural disaster, then that makes it even harder to fight.

That's the situation in which the various characters find themselves in Dry. They're up against an almost apocalyptic water shortage raging across California called the Tap-Out. There have been water shortages before, but nothing like on this scale.

The protagonists of the story are young adults, and this inevitably makes it more difficult for them to handle this long drought as they've never had to deal with such a situation before. The youngsters have always taken water for granted; it's there every time they turn on the faucet. So in dealing with this massive crisis, in taking on the protagonist of the story, they have to develop a completely different mindset, and fast.

In due course, that's precisely what they do. Alyssa shows a remarkable degree of ingenuity in dealing with the crisis, such as when she hits upon the simple but brilliant idea of stocking up at Costco with sacks of ice after all the bottled water has sold out.

And yet the antagonist, because it is a natural disaster, cannot truly be defeated by Alyssa or any of the other characters. The very best that they can do is to mitigate its unrelenting harshness by using their brains and coming up with ingenious ideas to ameliorate what is becoming an increasingly difficult situation.

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