AUTHOR: S.D. Crockett
SERIES: unknown; ending open for sequel, but I cannot find info on it
PUBLISHER: Feiwel and Friends
PUBLICATION DATE: March 27, 2012
GENRE: science fiction (post-apocalypse and dystopia)
GIVE IT TO: HS; more mature MS students
SUMMARY: When the seas stopped working, winter became endless. Despite the cold, fifteen-year old Willo lives happily with his family in the mountains; he loves observing wild dogs, trapping his family’s dinner, and making fur coats and gloves to keep warm. But when Willo returns from hunting one day, he finds his family is gone, and Willo is certain they have been kidnapped. Determined to find them, Willo sets out in the snow. He soon picks up a traveling companion, a skinny “city” girl who is more resourceful than Willo initially gives her credit for. In their search for their families, Mary and Willo brave freezing temperatures, hunger, and wild dogs before they make it to the city.
REVIEW: When I started this book, I could not stop talking about it! I love the writing style (similar to The Knife of Never-Letting Go and Blood Red Road) and the constant struggle for survival in the snow. About 70 pages into the story, I added it to my Goodreads account and was surprised/saddened to see the mediocre average Goodreads rating. I was bummed; surely if that many reviewers did not like the book, I must be wasting my time reading it. After skimming some of the reviews, I saw that many reviewers did not finish the book or did not like the writing style. Since I did like the writing style and the story, I continued reading, and I am so glad I did.
A character-driven story, After the Snow does have a few slow spots, but it never lasts long. Willo finds himself in plenty of tight-spots where escape seems impossible. Willo’s insightful inner-dialogue and unending resourcefulness make him a superhero in my eyes; no matter what mess he finds himself in, Willo has the brains to escape it. I especially love how Willo is no bare-chested, brooding “hottie” so common of male leads in YA fiction. Quite the contrary, he’s an odd little duck who wears a dog skull, talks to a dog in his head, and spends lots and lots of time observing nature. Love!
I really, really hope that poor reviews do not discourage potential readers (or worse, the publisher or first-time author). Crockett’s writing style is brilliant–simple, insightful, and beautiful. Willo and Mary make a great team, and it seems the story only scratches the surface of these two unique characters and the world they live in. As the months pass and Willo matures, he discovers just how much his parents protected him up in the mountains, away from the filthy, corrupt city. The world-building is slow, and Crockett leaves lots of unanswered or partially-answered questions for both Willo and the reader. The ending does wrap up some loose ends, but it leaves plenty of unfinished pieces for a sequel, which I hope hope hope comes soon. As of this writing, I can find no information about a planned sequel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Readers who like the style of books like Blood Red Road and the Chaos Walking trilogy should try this little gem. Great characters, original world-building, and a sweet potential romance all have me looking forward to a sequel.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY (GRADES 6-8): On order. Yes, it contains some language and crude sexual references, and yes, I am somewhat concerned about that. However, I have a pretty decent audience of smart students who crave post-apocalyptic science fiction, and I cannot deny them access to this book. After the Snow will be a hit in my school, though I will be careful who I recommend it to because of the content.
READALIKES: Blood Red Road (Young); Chaos Walking trilogy (Ness); The Hunger Games (Collins); Trapped (Northrop)
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 4/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: high–a few sh** (not usually used to swear but to describe poop); maybe 10 fu** (the gangs and main villain swear frequently)
- Sexuality: medium-high; no sexual behavior between characters, but multiple crude references to a prostitute (“whore,” “stick it in her,” and the like) and several references to Willo’s 14-year old sister who, before the story, got pregnant by and married a much older neighbor
- Violence: high; cannibalism (by desperate humans and animals), several bloody deaths, young child death due to frostbite, dogs eating human carcasses, a rotting carcass in a barn
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild-medium; some characters (including Willo) drink “grog,” which seems to be some sort or ale or liquor