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? -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads
Speaking of palate cleansers. I picked this book up at a Barnes and Noble and was intrigued by the cover, premise, and male protagonist. Don't get me wrong, I love my kick-ass lady protagonists. But it is nice to have some variety sometimes. Anyway. I love Julie of the Wolves, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, and some other survival stories, so I decided to give this one a whirl.
The setting is believable and very well drawn. It's all too easy see how climate change could tip us into another ice age, and Crockett does a great job of showing how people would act in a world with far fewer resources and much more desperation. The writing matches- everything is bleak, stark, and cold. What I wasn't really prepared for was the first person narration, which goes something like this:
"But he's my dad like I said, and you got to respect your dad I reckon. My mum got dead when I been a baby still scrieking in my ass rags. That happen a lot up here when the snow been deep and your breath freeze in the air. But Magda live with Dad now, up in our end of the house. Magda's in charge of the little kids and I don't envy her that job. If it been me I'm gonna bash them all."
See what I mean? It's a little jarring. Not everyone speaks this way, but since Willo is the narrator as well as the protagonist, there is quite a bit of it. It makes sense- he grew up in a very isolated setting with no schooling other than learning to read from a few tattered and precious books. His father, who remembers the world from before, tries to stifle his son's rustic and wild ways, but with no luck. It's hard to argue with this style really. It's well done, consistent, and fits the tone of the novel perfectly.
Besides, there are other passages (from different characters) that are wonderful and poetic:
"I can look after myself, Callum. you know that. I was born in a tent like you but I've grown soft. I remember the feel of rags on my feet but I found chinks in the walls. You're like a dog but I am a cat, always seeking the warmth of the fire..."
Overall, I didn't love it as much as I had wanted to, but it was definitely worth reading, especially if you are looking for a wintry setting, survival, or just something that is a bit off the beaten track.