Review of In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink, #2)In a Handful of Dust
By: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: September 23rd 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

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.

The Story:
I was blown away with Not a Drop to Drink, I thought it was brilliantly done. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this companion novel and see what McGinnis was going to hit us with this time. This book was bound to surprise me in some way and it surely did. I had a couple moments that I didn’t see coming.

Overall, this book was slow paced though McGinnis’ writing was intriguing enough to keep me invested though not a lot was happening. Some areas did drag a bit more than I would have liked. You can see from the above summary that in this book we focus on Lynn and Lucy’s story, both of which we were introduced to in Not a Drop to Drink. I loved revisiting some of the characters from the prior book though the secondary characters are only present for a very short time.

Most of this book centers on the cross country journey our main characters are on. We are introduced to new characters on their path and learn a bit more about this world without water. The entire book has a very western feel since everything has been reduced to finding water and traveling by foot or horseback. The path was strewn with many obstacles for our leads that gave the book some needed action sequences. Of course the stakes are high but though I worried for our characters I was never as invested as I was with the first book. I think I got thrown off by the slower pacing but I can’t be sure why I didn’t connect as deeply this time around.

Once we get to some of the big reveals they are sure to surprise the reader. I wasn’t overly enthused about one in particular. It felt almost overblown to add some shock value to an otherwise slow story line. That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to be. I just didn’t feel it was overly realistic. Or, perhaps I’d rather not think it would be for my own sanity.

The Characters:
We spend a short amount of time with Vera, Stebbs and the rest of the old cast of characters because only Lynn and Lucy are really focused on. It’s not far into the story that they take off on their journey.

As in the first novel McGinnis has crafted a beautifully touching and poignant relationship between these two women. I loved their mother/daughter relationship and felt that it was the driving force for the novel. Though there are many action scenes within In a Handful of Dust it read more character driven story to me. I think the readers enjoyment will depend upon how connected they feel towards Lynn and Lucy. Without a deep level of emotional connection this book might fall flat for some readers.

We are introduced to a handful of new characters that I never fully trusted or cared for. They all had a role to play in Lynn and Lucy’s journey but I wasn’t overly enthused to read about any of them but one. I’ll let you read to figure out if and who you connect with. For the most part the characters were well developed though a few later in the novel felt very one dimensional to me.

Final Thoughts:
McGinnis’ writing was a strong as ever and her ability to create realistic and emotional relationships between her characters was impressive. Though I enjoyed In a Handful of Dust I never had the level of connection that I’d have liked. I felt the pacing was a bit on the slow side though I’ll not soon be forgetting Lynn and Lucy’s story any time soon.


  • Review of Not a Drop to Drink
  • Interview with Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust’s cover designer Erin Fitzsimmons


  1. says

    I loved Not a Drop to Drink and I have been wanting to read this one ever since it came up on NG but I still haven’t taken the time to. It sounds like a great addition, too! I was wary at first of a sequel but I’m glad to hear it’s more a companion novel and I can’t wait to read about their journey – so this is like before what happens in Not a Drop to Drink, right? I was also expecting a slow pacing I found it was slow in book 1, too, but I was never bored or anything and actually preferred it that way, I wonder if it will bother me in this one. Great review, Kristen! 🙂

    • says

      It’s actually after Not a Drop to Drink–It’s Lynn’s story. It was very slow paced but Mindy is so talented with words it wasn’t boring. I hope you enjoy it if/when you read.

  2. says

    I agree that I didn’t love this one as much as adored Not A Drop To Drink… I think since this book is more Lucy driven and less Lynn driven and I didn’t connect as well with Lucy as I did with Lynn for some reason, I just couldn’t get behind this book as much as I did with NaDtD… Still it was a fantastic survivalist story that kept me reading despite the slower pace.
    Fantastic review Kristen!

  3. says

    I found it a little weird to see Lynn, but 10 years older at first but the author did a fantastic job at not ruining her character. I agree, the mother-daughter relationship was so good, I loved their dialogue and how different they were from each other.

    Great review, Kristen! <33

    • says

      I agree! I felt that she was still Lynn (though much more like her mom). I loved the relationship between Lucy and Lynn too–the strongest aspect of the book imo

  4. says

    I agree that the pacing got a bit slow at times. The relationship between Lucy and Lynn was well done and developed. My biggest issue was the romance, it was part of the story and then just disappeared until boom, McGinnis drops a bomb.

  5. says

    Great review Kristen. <3 I'm glad you managed to enjoy this book, but sorry you didn't fully love it 🙂 I.. did not love book one, so I decided not to read this, after having heard bad things about it :p so not for me, hih. But I must say that the covers are gorgeous. And I do get why you liked them. MAYBE 😀 Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

    • says

      haha! I love that maybe on there 🙂 I enjoyed the first much more than this one but it was good regardless. I can see why they aren’t your cup of tea.

  6. says

    I LOVED Not A Drop To Drink and I’ve been meaning to pick this one up. I didn’t WANT a companion but I’m happy because the world was so perfectly written and frightening. I’m glad to get to see more of Lynn! I pretty much always am disappointed with companion-y novels a lot of the time so I’ll go into it with lower expectations and not thinking it’s going to be AS amazing a NADTD.

    • says

      Yep, I think I went into this one with too high of expectations. I could have done without it to be honest but since it was there it was worth the read. It was nice to see some of the familiar faces too. I hope you enjoy it Jamie!

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