Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Report: After the Snow

After the Snow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are into survival stories and/or dystopian fiction, you will want to read this book. Extreme climate change? Over-controlling government? A secret band of dissenters? Persistent peril? We got that!

Plot basics: teenage Willo lives an isolated existence with his family in a world where the oceans have "stopped working", and snow and ice have covered the globe. We meet Willo hiding up above his home, waiting things out after his family has been dragged away by government trucks. Why did they take them? What's he going to do now? Willo knows he can't stay in the home he's grown up in, and so he sets off with a sled to his "secret place" in the mountains to regroup, but a chance encounter with a pair of starving children changes his course.

I am, in general, a slow reader (alas!), but I tore through After the Snow, fascinated by Willo's world, how it came to be, and how he would navigate it once he finds himself utterly alone. The plot is almost entirely non-stop action, though the pace varies to build suspense or give us a needed break to recover. Willo-as-narrator is a perfect blend of common sense and unawareness. Plus, he wears a dog skull on his head and talks to it, which charmed me. You will be rooting for this kid from page 1; he's not perfect, but he's a pure soul.

There were moments in this book, especially when Willo is in "the city", that reminded me of the thrills and fears I felt when I first read 1984 or saw Blade Runner... haunting images and characters. The author does not shy away from depicting the horrors that human beings are capable of when they are starving or hopeless, and I appreciated that as honest (still, I'm also thankful that she showed such things with judiciousness, and didn't go overboard... just the right amount of human-beings-suck).

I felt a little let down by the ending. It felt hasty after so much care. That said, I think the author's choice of ending would make a fascinating discussion. Overall: so good.

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