Saturday, April 14, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Double Feature: Nomansland by Lesley Hauge and After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

Book: Nomansland
Author: Leslie Hague
Published: 2010
Source: Purchased

They spend their lives in training, constantly preparing against the enemy that could destroy their peaceful society. They're told the dangers of being soft, of being unprepared. If they succumb to the enemy, their lives will be taken from them and they will be subject to torture, rape, and the loss of their own will. They must be ever-vigilant against the enemy.


But one girl has discovered a secret treasure trove of items from before, when girls were soft and weak. Intoxicated by this mysterious new world, a small group of girls spends hours and hours exploring things like makeup, high heels, and soft beds. But the leaders of their society have a vested interest in keeping them away from these things, and it can't last forever.

I feel as if this was the first half of a book, and we were supposed to get a second half where the narrator, Keller, who has already started to tentatively explore the idea that men may not be entirely awful, gets proof first-hand. Unfortunately, she's mostly an onlooker to a corrupt society, brutally punishing an outlier, and this weakens the power of the book for me. I never felt as if I got beyond stereotypes in any character. The single exception, oddly enough, was Dayna, who never truly appears except through the treasure trove of her bedroom. With makeup next to soccer trophies, stuffed animals and posters of dreamboats, this super-typical teenage girl, long-dead, defies stereotypes in a way that the girls of Foundland never quite achieve.The premise was intriguing, but it needed stronger characterization and a more powerful story to really make it shine.

Book: After the Snow
Author: S.D. Crockett
Published: March 27, 2012
Source: Review Copy from publisher via NetGalley

His family has disappeared, taken away by the government men, and Willo is on his own in an icy, snowbound landscape. He knows his job--first, to survive, the way he's always been taught. Second, to find them.

The voice reminded me strongly of Blood Red Road, one of my favorites from last year. The dialect may drive people crazy, but I got used to it, and followed Willo through the frozen wasteland that is his world, into the grinding poverty of a broken city and the secrets of his family.

We never really meet the family, and that may be the source of my biggest complaint against this book. With no particular attachment to them, I never felt any sense of urgency for Willo to find his family, and honestly it didn't seem as if he did either. Granted, this is a kid who talks a lot tougher and more detached than his actions show, and maybe we're supposed to parse out his love for his family between the lines. But I think if we'd seen even one scene with them, as opposed to scattered memories, it would have lent his quest a lot more urgency. As it is, Willo seems to drift through the book, and I often had to remind myself of what his purpose was and why I was reading. A promising voice, but it needed more substantive world building and character development for me to get excited.

* * *

So why is this a double feature? And why, as underwhelmed as I was, am I talking about them at all? Because I read these books virtually back-to-back, and noticed the same thing about both of them. I was waiting for something that never came . . . specifically, the Big Lurve Story. Willo encounters some girls/women but never really falls in WUV! (Thank God, because one girl is thirteen, another is a sociopath, and the third gets killed messily.) Keller, for her part, doesn't have first-hand contact with the male of the species until the very last page, and it's hardly in a situation to promote the swoonage.

We're so used to having a love story in a dystopia these days that fans and media lend it far more importance that it really merits in the story. See: the Hunger Games. While I like the love story, it's not even close to what the whole thing is about, and I cringe for Suzanne Collins whenever I see something like "The Hotties of the Hunger Games!" Of course, hotties are an easier sell than revolution.

While I had problems with both these books, the lack of a love story was not one of them and it's something that made them both stand out for me. YA authors, don't put in a love story unless it's there.


Patti said...

I'm about halfway through After the Snow...and sort of struggling. I was pretty excited about it too.

Bibliovore said...

Yeah, it's hard when it starts out promising and you can tell yourself, "Oh, that nitpick will get taken care of soon . . . " and then it never, ever does . . . and you slow down to a crawl.