What if you woke up tomorrow and everything had changed? Money is worthless. Your friends are gone. Armed robbers roam the streets. No one is safe. For Matt and his little brother, Taco, that nightmare is a reality. Their only hope of survival is to escape through the Channel Tunnel. But danger waits on the other side…Stay or go. What would you do?
Gillian Cross’ Demon Headmaster books were some of my frequently re-read books when I was younger, when I began reading more children’s fiction again I was thrilled to discover she was still writing. I read and enjoyed Where I Belong so when I started seeing all of the buzz around After Tomorrow I added it to my books I need to read list. It’s won a number of awards including the Little Rebels children’s book award – would I find it lived up to such hype?
The first thing I have to say is that this book is a terrifyingly believable read. I’ve always said that for dystopic versions of our world to really work for me I need to be able to see how our world could change in order to become the fictional one. The world created in After Tomorrow doesn’t require much thought at all in this respect, the more you read the more you recognise scenarios from our world today – it’s a fictionalised version of situations occurring around the world. I felt that this made the book both more scary and more thought provoking.
The story begins with the first time Matt, the narrator, and his family get raided. This makes for a bold start, the reader is as surprised by the events unfolding as the characters – I found I couldn’t read fast enough in my bid to understand what was happening and why. It’s not long in the book until the family gets raided again, the raids get worse and worse and I found myself getting angrier and sadder on the characters’ behalf.
It’s not far into the book that the family begin to prepare to escape the dreadful situation in the UK by travelling through the Channel Tunnel. The rest of the book focuses on these experiences, both in making the escape and in living their lives as refugees. It was particularly this aspect that made me realise how topical the book is, some scenes felt like I was watching them on the evening news.
This was a book that I became hugely invested in, as I read I felt the emotions experienced by the characters keenly. There was one scene in particular, a good way through the book, that really got to me emotionally – I had to have a little break and go and make myself a cup of tea before I could carry on reading. I also formed opinions of some of the secondary characters that the main characters didn’t yet share and found myself wanting to shout at them and warn them of my suspicions (by the end of the book I was proven right on only some counts, probably as well I couldn’t actually influence the main characters!).
This book is a really important one, and as such is going to be one that I’m going to be talking about lots. It feels as though it sits on that boundary between middle grade and young adult, it has a lot to offer both age groups. I think it would make an excellent book group book, there’s so much to discuss in it. The way the action is packed into the book, particularly at the beginning, means I think it would hook in most readers. It does slow down a little as the book progresses but I think it still does plenty to keep a young audience reading.
After Tomorrow is published by Oxford University Press. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.