Oxford, OUP, 2013, 296p
England is in recession. The banks have collapsed and money is tight. Some families are managing, with careful planning and vigilant forethought; but some are suffering, driven to drastic measures by desperation.
Does this sound familiar?
How about late-night attacks from the poor, venting their anger through theft - trying to level the playing field by stealing from those who have more? How about being forced to emigrate to France as England becomes increasingly dangerous and impossible to live in?
This is After Tomorrow - a "what if" story. What if the recession got worse? Matt and his brother, Taco, have to leave the home they know and love in a final rush before the border into France closes. They have already lost their father and their grandfather, victims to the violence that has erupted as a result of the poverty that has swept through England. But things are not much better over the channel: holed up in a tent, they live off food rations, shivering through the cold nights. Plus, neither of them speak French.
I breezed through this book - it felt effortless and confident, brilliantly composed. Although it is not an action packed novel, the pace was controlled perfectly, which meant I never got bored (even in the early pages as the character and plot was developed).
And the concept is simply genius, especially considering the target audience. Gillian Cross does not preach about class divide or make suggestions about the world economy, but presents a world that no child would want to experience. Without wanting to spoil the ending, I will just say that there is no conclusion to such a situation; but Cross does not patronise her reader or her characters: simply, After Tomorrow is thought provoking, intelligent and relevant, subtly guiding young readers to think about the world in which they live.