Willo lives in a future in which the planet has been plunged into a near-constant, bitter winter. The government controls the scarce electricity and food for most people, but Willo lives with his family on a snow-covered mountain, catching what food they can, waiting for the short spring thaws to come. Willo doesn’t mind their harsh life; he’s proud of his hunting skills and pays no mind when his dad talks about the comforts of the past or the hope he sees in the future. But one day, coming home from a hunt, Willo sees his family taken away, and for the first time he truly is on his own.
After the Snow is a beautifully written novel about the kind of life that might await us if winter never ended, but more than that, it’s a book about a teenager discovering the world and his place in it. While Willo’s father fears he’s been hardened by the harsh realities of his childhood, Willo is actually full of innocence, shown in his pure desire to help a girl he finds along his path, and even more so by the constant guilt that haunts him over a baby bunny that died after he killed its mother. He’s tough when battling the elements or any other cruelties nature throws at him, but having been raised by kind people, he is completely unprepared for the cruelty of men.
Author S.D. Crockett’s only misstep is her desire to make the novel into something it’s not: a mystery. The setup of the mystery comes too late, the reveal comes too quickly, and all the questions that surround it are overshadowed by the book’s brilliantly drawn characters: Willo; Mary, the girl he rescues who seems so breakable in the wild yet taps into a strength that astounds him in the city; the strangers he encounters who are willing to share what little they have; and those he thought were friends who are ready to use untold brutality against him.
Set in a sparse, cold landscape, with hardships befalling its protagonist at every turn, After the Snow is surprisingly hopeful, and sure to keep you engrossed through the final page.
Molly Horan is a grad student at The New School getting her MFA in writing for children and young adults.