By S.D. Crockett
Published by Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN 978 1 4472 1117 5
In her powerful first novel, Sophie Crockett paints a very bleak picture for the future of mankind. Global warming has destroyed the North Atlantic current, sending much of Britain and North America into a new ice age. Pockets of civilisation still exist under the control of a harsh government, and some small communities hang onto life in the wilderness far away from the towns.
Fifteen-year-old Willo and his family are stragglers, living apart from other survivors, but here in the mountain wastelands, they are free from the government's controlling grasp. They fend for themselves and survive by hunting wildlife.
Willo has never known a world free from ice and snow. He was born after winter took its cruel grip on the land and has never seen the sun, a green tree or a blue sky.
He wears clothes of hand-stitched animal skins and a hat fashioned from a big dog skull. And sometimes he hears the voice of the dog talking to him inside his head.
After the Snow is a gripping mixture of post-apocalyptic thriller and coming-of-age novel. Willo tells his own story, and this is one of the book's great strengths, providing a tight focus to a human tale set in a very inhumane world.
One day, Willo comes home from hunting to discover that his family has vanished. What has happened? Has the government taken them away? He needs to search for the truth about his family's disappearance.
Crockett sets up her background and central character with great skill in the introduction and opening chapters. Willo is a resourceful young man, a skilled huntsman and tracker, and he knows he can survive alone as he crosses the mountain to find help and information.
But on his way up the mountain, he finds a young girl, lying frozen and near death on the ice. Mary is a refugee from the city, and the sensible thing for Willo to do would be to leave her to her fate and carry on alone. But he decides to take her with him into the frozen unknown.
Willo is the narrator of his own story, and Crockett has given him a voice that is authentic and totally believable. Speaking in a coarse and sometimes jumpy dialect, Willo comes alive as he tells his dark tale as he sees it. His narration is free from any social or political comment that would slow down the story.
One boy and his struggle for survival and self-discovery are at the core of this exciting and sometimes harrowing story, and Willo is certainly a hero you won't find easy to forget.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com