Fifteen-year-old Willo goes up into the hills to collect firewood, and when he returns, his family is gone. He can tell by the tracks and the smell that they've been taken by the government—only the government has trucks strong enough to come into the mountains during the winter—but he doesn't know why they've been taken, or where.
So he loads his sled up with as many supplies as he can, and he sets out to find them.
After the Snow is set in the near future—near enough that the adults remember the world as we know it now—in (judging by the place names) Wales. A new Ice Age has settled in, and as Willo understands it, people are divided into three major categories: those who live in settlements, beholden to and controlled by the government; stealers, those who live by theft, murder, and cannibalization; and stragglers like Willo's family, who work towards self-sufficiency and think of themselves as 'beacons of hope'. (Willo's not particularly interested in the 'beacon of hope' part—he's borderline feral, and more focused on observing animal behavior and learning from it—but it's something his father talks about from time to time.)
If you dislike books written in dialect, you're not likely to enjoy Willo's voice. But for those of you who don't mind—or even like!—reading dialect, you're likely to see the beauty in passages like this:
The snow blast at me in great sweeping drafts—it sting in my eyes and get down my coat and the whole thing get to be a proper fight. I shout pretty hard at the wind and the snow and myself too for not making that tent good and strong. If you don't get angry sometimes you're gonna get trodden on or swallowed up or just plain washed over.
Although there are a couple of pretty amazing coincidences near the end of the story—the kind of coincidence that abruptly allows for the end of a story by neatly tying up major loose ends—and I don't know how believable I found Willo's decision to [SPOILER], for the most part, the book really works. The pacing is good, the description strong, the characters believable, and the violence, while upsetting and gut-wrenching, isn't gratuitous. It's a vision of a post-apocalyptic future that touches on a lot of our current concerns—global warming, alternate energy, the oil crisis—while also taking a (pessimistic) stab at imagining what the global political landscape could look like in a few short decades.
Recommended to: Fans of How I Live Now, because it's a survival story set in the UK about a teenager disinterested in and shaky in his grasp of the politics that directly affect his life. Fans of Blood Red Road, because it's a survival story narrated by a teenager who speaks in dialect setting out in search of his lost family. Those who enjoyed Graceling for Katsa's trek through the mountains sequence more than her romance with Po.
Book source: ILLed through my library.