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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Frigid Dystopian Novel An Intriguing Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I tried to resist reading After the Snow by S.D. Crockett. I really did. Not for forever, just until it got closer to the book's publication date (March 2012). But everything about the book intrigued me - the setting (an arctic dystopian England - haven't seen that one before), the cover (chilling, no?), and the plot (teenager's family gets taken, leaving him to fend for himself in a frigid, empty world). So, you see why I had to read it, right? Right? And, of course, I could just post-date this review, but where would the fun in that be? This way, you can get just as interested, just as excited about the novel as I did!

The story begins on a cold, icy day - because that's how every day dawns in Willo Blake's eternally white world. The 15-year-old is a straggler, one of the few people who live outside the enclosed cities, staying well below the government's radar. He, along with his father, stepmother, younger sister, and an assortment of friends, eke out a life in the hills, eating the animals they kill and trading their furs to a trusted outsider in order to purchase other supplies. The stragglers may not play by the government's rules, but they're not doing anything wrong. Just trying to survive.

On this particular afternoon, Willo's out hunting in the hills. When he returns, he senses right away that something's wrong. His home looks and feels deserted. Creeping closer, he discovers that everyone's gone. Judging from the tire tracks in the snow and the half-eaten breakfast abandoned on the kitchen table, his people have been discovered and apprehended by police. Willo knows they could be back for him at any time, could even be hiding somewhere on the property waiting to nab him. Not sure what to do or where to go, Willo takes off into the mountains. He's been hiding himself, masking his scent and noise for as long as he can remember - he'll do that now while he figures out a plan.

It doesn't take long for Willo to hit a snag. As he tromps through the frozen land, he comes across a young girl. Stick-thin and starving, she's waiting for her father to return. Willo's already found the man - he's dead in a shed out behind the hovel where the girl is waiting. Thirteen-year-old Mary, now an orphan, is so distraught, so far out of her mind, that Willo can't reason with her. He also can't leave her by herself, especially not with a pack of wolves circling outside, just waiting for another carcass to tear apart. He also can't drag her along with him, seeing as she's a city girl, unused to living in the wild. Now, he has a plan: Get Mary back to the city, then figure out how to get to his own family.

The city, though, isn't what Willo thought it would be. It's much bleaker, much more dangerous. As Willo tries to navigate his way through its filthy makeshift streets, he'll learn some shocking truths - about life in the dingy city, about his own family, and, mostly, about himself. With these revelations comes the realization that he's now in more danger than he could ever have imagined. Maybe he's no match for the animals that stalk the hillsides, but in the city, it's a whole different kind of hunt. Here, in "civilization," Willo's the prey.

The narration in After the Snow is a little hard to follow at first (Willo's speech resembles that of Todd in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness), but once you get used to it, Willo tells a gripping post-apocalyptic tale. Which is grim, to be sure. Also fast-paced and exciting. It's a chilling dystopian/survival story, set in a unique climate, which makes it even more fascinating. After the Snow might not be my favorite YA dystopian novel - still, it's an engrossing, well-written adventure that kept me flipping pages well into the night. Bottom line: I liked it.

(Readalikes: The Road by Cormac McCarthy; The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch; The Chaos Walking trilogy [The Ask and the Answer; The Knife of Never Letting Go; Monsters of Men] by Patrick Ness; also reminded me a little of Trapped by Michael Northrop)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence and intense situations

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of After the Snow from the generous folks at Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan). Thank you!


  1. you had me on the fringes with the review...maybe this was for me, maybe not.

    and then you bring in Todd Hewitt.

    i am SOLD. looking forward to this one FO SHO.

  2. I have an ARC as well. I'm waiting for that perfect snowy day to read!


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