After the Snow by SD Crockett
|After the Snow by SD Crockett|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, 15 year old Willo must move away from the mountain on which he grew up to search for his missing family. This journey will destroy everything he's believed about his past. He soon comes to realise that the trick is to prevent it from destroying him.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: February 2012|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
On a near future Earth, Willo lives with his family in an isolated community without technology. His parents remember a time when there were machines but all this has changed. Now there's only enough petrol for the sinister government trucks. One day Willo finds himself totally alone, his parents missing, presumed taken. Armed with his father's cryptic sayings and his only friend, (a dog's skull that speaks through his imagination) Willo leaves all that's familiar in order to find his loved ones. The unknown is a ruthless place filled with Stealers and starvation but there's escape from what he needs to do.
Using Willo's own voice, After the Snow takes the reader on an adventure during which Willo has to dodge dangers, scavenge for food and survival whilst distinguishing between friend and foe or resource drain. It's this authentic teenage boy's voice that keeps the book going through the first half's standard post-apocalyptic, dystopian fare until the pace suddenly increases as twists and plot take on a greater momentum. At this point the reader is drawn further into the intrigue as Willo's father's sayings suddenly start to make sense and Willo realises that his past has been a lie.
This book has been cleverly written. Some of the twists are well-heralded but the main one surprised me, turning the whole story on its head and setting it off in a different direction. The characters are all sketchily drawn but this story is told by a 15 year old teenager fighting for survival. As every mother of sons knows (and SD Crockett is included in this group), even when not fighting for survival, lads of this age aren't known for describing (or noticing) nuances of personality or emotion. Willo's voice is therefore filled with authenticity.
S D Crockett's style is very similar to John Boyne's. Like Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, After the Snow has a lot for the younger reader whilst presenting the adult with a higher level of understanding. In this case, reading it as an adult transforms the book into an eerily prophetic tale. Whilst we're on the subject of age...
The age range that After the Snow is recommended for is 12-years-and-upwards. The relatively easy language and the fact that Macmillan uses their children's publishing arm to release the book may encourage some to offer it to younger readers. If this idea tempts you, it may be useful to note that there is one use of the 'f' word and that you may need to explain the concept of prostitution to your young reader. (There are no graphic sex scenes, but prostitution is mentioned in connection with a character and understanding it is important to the plot at one stage.)
This is a highly recommended, atmospheric book. Don't let the 'Teens' tag stop you picking it up – the older you are, the more you'll get out of it.
If you've enjoyed this, then I would heartily recommend The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. If you would like to try another book in a child's voice in a more quirky vein The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is would be worth your time.
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