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?
In After The Snow, the environment has changed drastically: the polar caps have melted and, as a result, there are no more warm ocean currents maintaining the climate. The world has fallen into something of an ice age, and I was looking forward to seeing how people have managed to survive.
The beginning of this story starts out very strange. Willo is talking to a dead dog, and the dog *talks back*. That took a lot of getting used to. Plus, the vocabulary and sentence structure made it sound like rural Midwest, parts of the south, or Appalachia, yet the names of the places in the story didn't match any of those locations. It took me *forever* to figure out that the story takes place in the UK. Even knowing that, though, the hick-like accent was stuck in my head. Maybe it’s just me, but I found it a bit jarring.
It also took me a long time to figure out what was going on. Willo wasn't very sympathetic in the beginning because he knows his family has been taken away in a truck, he knows how to track, and he even hears his step-mother scream. But he doesn't go after them because the dog in his head is telling him not to. I didn’t understand why he should listen to this dog, so it made it extremely hard to connect with him. He does grow throughout the story, though, and he learns from his mistakes, so he's much more likable in the end.
The world-building wasn't as thorough as I wanted. Much of the populace has a book—we get a few snippets of its contents, but I would have liked more—and there’s an underground movement surrounding this book, but I wasn’t clear as to what was going on. People want to leave because they’re starving and they want a new beginning. Kind of like colonists who settled remote parts of the world hundreds of years ago. Except, in this case, they have to leave secretly and I didn’t understand why. If the government doesn’t have enough food to feed its people, why wouldn’t they support this colonization?
Instead, these book-owners are labeled trouble makers, but it’s not clear what kinds of trouble they cause. I didn't understand the government's motivation to stamp out everyone who believed in this book. If we had seen the propaganda surrounding this (there is *always* propaganda with controlling governments), I think it would have helped a lot. Willo might not have heard the propaganda while living on the mountain, but he lived in the city for 5 months. He'd have been barraged with it for sure, and we’d have had a wonderful opportunity to see both sides of the fence. It’s a shame we didn’t get that.
The ending is odd. I understand the concepts that Willo finally comes to believe in, but I didn't see how it tied into his mountain or his choices. He says he made his choice so the bad guys won’t ‘win,’ but it seems to me that this choice makes them win because he’s giving them what they want. I think that if I’d understood the world better, then I’d have understood Willo’s choices. As it is, I was left scratching my head as to the point of this book.