{Review} AFTER THE SNOW by S.D. Crockett

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

   I'M GONNA SIT HERE IN MY PLACE on the hill behind the house. Waiting. And watching.
   Aint nothing moving down there.
   The valley look pretty bare in the snow. Just the house, gray and lonely down by the river all frozen. I got to think what I'm gonna do now that everyone gone.
   But I got my dog head on.
   The dog gonna tell me what to do. The dog gonna help me.
   The house look proper empty--don't it, dog.
   You just sit quiet in these rocks, Willo.
   The dog talking sense like he always do.
   I reckon the fire in the house probably gone out by now with no one to feed it cos everyone gone and I been sitting on the hill all day finding that out. Everyone got taken away cos I seen tracks in the snow. They all gone.
   Dad gone.
   Magda gone.
   The others gone.
   But I don't know why.
   Tell me, dog--what am I gonna do?
(pg. 3, US ARC edition)
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Does anyone else read for atmosphere, or just me? Back when I read THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab, it was a gray, windy day. The wind has such a presence in that book that reading it on such a day made the story feel that much more real. I read THE NEAR WITCH shortly before receiving an advance copy of AFTER THE SNOW by S.D. Crockett. Wanting another atmospheric read, I decided to wait and read it on a snowy day. That snowy day never came. Or, whenever it was snowing, I was working. I've had AFTER THE SNOW since late 2011, and I finally got to read it in December 2013 on a cold, snowy day.With snow threatening to fall again today followed by another chillingly cold week, I thought today would be a good day to share my review for anyone like me who prefers reading certain books during certain types of weather.

AFTER THE SNOW centers around a teenage boy named Willo. He often spends his days outdoors hunting and combing the woods. He was outside the day a mysterious truck came and took his family away. All alone in the biting cold, he decides to rescue his family. He's all that's left, after all. Everyone else is gone. After packing provisions and leaving home, Willo encounters an abandoned brother and sister. The boy is sick; both are hungry. Willo's imaginary friend and advice-giver, Dog, advices him to move on: You don't want someone else's sickly pups suckling at your dugs (pg 43, US ARC Edition). So Willo leaves, but he can't stop thinking about them, alone and afraid. He returns to help. AFTER THE SNOW is a story of survival, but also a story of the corruption that comes when a society is forced to survive on its own in extreme conditions.

AFTER THE SNOW won't be a book for everyone. It's written in dialect, for one thing. The dialect greatly reminded me of when I read BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young. For me, dialect takes a while to fall into. Once its cadence is in my head, the rhythm becomes second-nature, and I don't even notice it after a while. Not everyone can do that, though--or wants to. (See above Opening Hook for a taste of the dialect used throughout the novel!) The dialect really gives voice to Willo. It tells readers a lot about his character. He's not well-educated, but does the best he can with what he's got. Willo has a very "wild" feel to him. He spends his days traipsing around outdoors, and his father thinks he's off his rocker. He has childlike tendencies that remind me of kids with invisible friends. When he wears a hat he made out of the bones of a deceased dog (wolf, perhaps), he gets his"dog head" on. The dog speaks to him, warns him, shares knowledge. To me, the dog gives voice to Willo's own inner-conscious, but he doesn't realize this. He really thinks the dog's spirit is talking to him. Balancing Willo's persona is incredibly tricky to keep up throughout an entire novel. It's no wonder that S.D. Crocket was an ALA (American Library Association) finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. It takes a talented writer to pull off both the dialect and madness/sanity that makes up Willo's character.

I was expecting more of a survival story when I began reading AFTER THE SNOW. Everyone is gone, the blurb promises. The initial summary just focused on survival, on building shelter atop the mountain after his family disappears. Then, he discovers a brother and sister on his journey and must decide whether to save them as well or continue on his own. I thought it would be more like SURVIVE by Alex Morel or THE RAFT by fellow Macmillan Feiwel & Friends author S.A. Bodeen (both reviewed here). I wasn't anticipating the story of survival to merge into a story of a corrupt government guarding its own secrets. I hesitate to call it dystopian, because I wouldn't group it with other YA novels in that genre. It's still very different and unique, and more a story of survivall than anything else. But part of it does take place in a city-like environment where papers are required for entrance and there are daily patrols. Even here, however, surviving the harsh elements is key, and many believe that going East to China will free them from the bitter cold.

I really liked that the novel was set in Wales. I enjoy reading novels set in other countries. Too many of the "disaster" and "post-apocalyptic" novels/movies/etc. take place in the USA. The USA isn't the only country that will be affected should such a catastrophe ever happen, and I like broadening my horizons by reading about other cultures. I'm sure there are many such-books, but not many are published and distributed in the USA. I'm glad that Macmillan picked up foreign rights for AFTER THE SNOW.

After reaching the end of AFTER THE SNOW and its surprising conclusion, I thought that Crockett's new novel ONE CROW ALONE would be a sequel, and was eager to dive right in. Imagine my surprise to find out that it, instead, a prequel, one where the bitter cold and forever-frozen tundra has just begun making itself present! Does AFTER THE SNOW need a sequel? No. Would I like to see what happens to these characters after they make their decisions? Absolutely. Hopefully Crockett has at least one more novel planned for this desolate world!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Just looking at this cover makes me shiver. It looks COLD!

I like the way the story blurb is written in an eye-popping red that carries over in splashes across the black font of the title. It looks sinister, as though all is not as it initially seems. It gives me a feeling of danger!

The title font is also grainy and streaky, giving it a cold, wintery look of its own! I knew this was a book to read curled up with a blanket and hot, steaming cocoa when I first saw it!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: S.D. Crockett
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan
Received: For Review

Fifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone. 

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone -- he doesn't have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl -- but Willo just can't do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family?