The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Finn has become an expert at surviving on his own. After the virus that swept through Angowrie killed his parents, he’s spent the last two years keeping himself fed and staying clear of the dangerous Wilder gangs. It’s just Finn and his dog, Rowdy, making the best life they can after society has collapsed.
And then Rose shows up, injured and afraid. She’s a Siley – one of the asylum seekers the people of Angowrie took in before the virus hit. As Finn tends to her wounds, Rose’s story comes out: she’s searching for her sister, Kas, and she needs to find her before Ramage, the leader of the Wilders, hunts them both down. Faced with something outside his own survival for the first time in years, Finn sets out into the wilderness of the Australian bush, uncertain of what he’ll find.
When you’re writing a post-apocalyptic young adult novel set in Australia, there are bound to be comparisons to John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began. And while there are similarities between the two, I felt this had much more in common with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The world in The Road to Winter is harsh and unforgiving, populated by human monsters who have little sympathy for their fellow survivors. And that’s what I liked best about this novel – where most post-apocalyptic YA skews towards the fantastical and pits heroes against zombies and the like, this scenario is terrifyingly real. This is a world where an infected cut can kill you just as easily as a man with a gun.
This is a dark and gritty read recommended for older teens, but there’s also a lot of hope in here: because for all the people like Ramage out there at the end of the world, there are also people like Finn, helping because they know it’s the right thing to do.
Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller and author who blogs for the Readings website.