This is an excellent new novel by Gillian Cross. It is unputdownable.
Matt lives with his mum and his little brother Taco (real name Thomas, but he likes eating tacos!) in a town which has been torn apart by rioting after a UK banking collapse. Matt's gran has dementia, and Mum decides she needs to have Gran move in with the family. However, things get more difficult as money gets tighter and the shops empty of food. At this point Mum starts to hoard food - a natural reaction. However, local people get to hear about hoarders, or 'scadgers' as they are known, and they raid the family to take back some food for themselves. This is where the book starts - just as the family are raided.
The family feel threatened when their house is daubed with graffiti reading 'SCADGERS' and then Matt discovers that someone has named them on a website called ScadgePost. This makes them vulnerable to attack so Mum decides the family must leave the UK and head for France, as Matt's school friend has moved there recently, and food is easier to get in France.
The family are about to set off when Gran falls in the front garden and breaks her leg. Mum refuses to leave her, and sends Matt, Taco and Justin to France and safety. She thinks.
The train journey to France is scary and slow, and when they arrive, Matt and Taco find themselves homeless refugees. They are herded to 'Lemon Dough' (Les Mondaeaux) on trains, and given tents to live in. Matt has his beloved bike which he has refused to leave behind. They are given vouchers for food. Food is swede, rice, beans, and dry bread.
The story tells of Matt's struggles to live up to Einstein's saying, one that Paige quotes to Matt: "Life is like a bicycle. If you want to stay balanced, you have to keep moving." The ending is powerful and moving, and Matt learns along the way whom he can trust, and what really matters in the struggle to survive.
I really like this book and can imagine it could be a useful class reader for an English class. There are lots of teaching points to draw on and issues to discuss. How would you really survive in such a situation? What would it be like if you really had to escape the UK to another country, and become an unwelcome immigrant? I think this book is suitable for anyone aged 12 and over. Gillian Cross makes writing a thrilling adventure story look effortless, and the story rattles along. The language is inventive and atmospheric. I can't wait to recommend this book to young people. It's almost as good as Robert Swindell's post nuclear dystopia, Brother in the Land - a post apocalyptic novel for the banking crash generation.
A novel of dystopian near future fiction for younger readers. Ideal reading age would probably be ten and up, since it does contain some violence and some distressing moments. But it is strong enough to be enjoyed by older readers as well.
It runs for two hundred and ninety six pages, and is divided into twenty three chapters.
It's also complete and self contained and doesn't appear to be the start of a trilogy or a series.
The story begins in a Britain still dealing with the after effect of the day when five banks all failed at the same time. As a result, food prices are rocketing. There's no money to pay for it. Or to get more police to deal with increasing lawlessness. Armed robbers are targeting anyone who is hoarding food. And putting the details of said people all over the internet.
The main character is a boy called Matt, who narrates the story in first person present tense. He has a younger brother called Taco [a nickname that stuck] and he lives with his mother and stepfather.
The story starts with his family being targeted by anti hoarders. Increasingly realising that their only option is to get away, they try to get through the channel tunnel. Along with many other people looking to take refuge on the continent.
Can they make it through? And if they do, will they cope with life as a refugee, and what might await them on the other side?
The whole story is seen through Matt's eyes, and the writing is good at presenting things from the perception of someone of his age. Someone who was too young to understand the causes of this collapse, but who has to experience the after effect.
It's all about being a refugee. Something that many people go through, but hasn't ever been much of a British experience. Adjusting to a complete change in your life. A strange new country. And doing what you can to survive.
Good and clear prose makes the story move along at a decent pace, and the whole book is very readable as a result. The pages do turn very quickly.
In a situation like this you would encounter both the best and the worst of human nature, and the book doesn't shy away from that.
The supporting characters of the story are all well drawn and believable. Some are pretty sympathetic.
Matt grows and changes as a person as a result of what he goes through. The writing does force the reader to think about the moral dilemmas presented, and what they might do in a similar situation. Which is the best way to present such a thing.
There are some good plot developments on route also.
This is a very readable and involving story of what it might be like to go through such a situation. And it's well worth a look.
This is a book aimed at the younger market, but I am always fascinated by end of the world, or doomsday scenarios. This one has a clever take on the credit crunch and how the global crisis causes severe food shortages and so the general break down of society. Matt lives with his Mum, Step Dad and charmingly named little brother - Taco, so called because of his love for that particular fare. Though he can now hardly remember what they tasted like as they have been living on anything that is edible for so long.
With the food shortages people look for scapegoats to pin the blame on. These are people who are alleged to hoard food and are called `scadgers'. Because Matt's family have food they get labelled as such and then become a target for the raiders who have got nothing to lose but their lives.
Faced with one woe after another the mum decides to do a runner to France before they close their border and the Channel Tunnel. This is where their adventures really start to ramp up. They end up being immigrants or worse refugees in France where the only way to survive is to be useful, not get sick and if you really want to get on in a foreign country then learn the language. Matt faces many a challenge but always does so with a steely optimism and he takes the good times with the very bad always caring for his little brother.
I really enjoyed this book, whilst it is clearly aimed at young people it does not mean it has to be bad literature or lacking in imagination and Gillian Cross can both write and come up with creative stories and she has an impressive back catalogue too, so if you enjoy this one, and I am pretty sure you would then check out some of her previous (award winning) work- recommended.
on 22 December 2014
I enjoyed this tale of survival book which imagines how the UK economy has collapsed leading to food shortages, the worthlessness of money, violence in the streets, folks stealing food from each other, the injuries resulting from violence not being treated because healthcare is so stretched, and the police not being able to do anything about any of it. It starts with Matt's family, whose mother is quite resourceful and manages to survive quite well at first. However, the family are then labelled as "scadgers" (food hoarders) despite the fact that they are not, and the only way they can survive is to become refugees, illegally breaching the border into France and ending up in a refugee camp, where the locals despise them and only grudgingly help them to survive.
This is a fast-paced read and it's very enjoyable; but the best thing about it is how it turns things on their heads - we're all so used to living in our privileged country with supermarkets which are fully stocked and where food is readily available. We're used to the state helping us if we need it, healthcare being available and feeling sorry for folks in refugee camps (in a distant sort of way, because it doesn't really affect us). This book puts British citizens in the position of being the ones who are helpless, despised and at the mercy of others - it's not a comfortable thought, but it could happen. There but for the grace of God and all that...
I would definitely recommend this book for a thoughtful read.
"After Tomorrow" follows the story of Matt and his little brother Taco. After the UK undergoes economic collapse, armed raiders roam the streets, so their only hope is to go the Channel Tunnel, and escape to a refugee camp in the French countryside.
My 15-year-old son really enjoyed this book. He thought the writing style was excellent, and that the story was gripping. He also thought it was a believable dystopian setting (Hyperinflation, rather than something unrealistic like zombies), which he thinks is a rarity in this type of fiction - the target audience is probably 11-16 year olds. A sequel would not go amiss.
After Tomorrow is set in a scarily convincing near future. The banks have crashed and food has become almost impossible to buy. Armed gangs roam the country and take any food they can find, with violence. Anyone with stored food is considered a "scadger" - hoarder - and their details are posted online. Matt, his brother and stepdad have escaped to France, where they are living in a refugee camp, with just a small ration of food. Matt does make friends with a local family, but events threaten even their precarious new existence.
After Tomorrow is a compelling read. I found Matt's plight all too believable - in fact, many real life refugee families experience a lot of these problems now. The characters were quite realistic and it was quite a page turner. At the end I really hoped Matt and his family could make some sort of future for themselves, and I would love to read more about these characters.
The story raises some ethical issues, such as questions about the difference between providing for yourself and your family and unscrupulous hoarding and profiteering. It also offers a take on questions such as immigration, from the viewpoint of someone who has become an immigrant, even a refugee.
I'm quite a lot older than the target age for this book, but I think it would appeal to boys and girls of about 10 up, though parents of young readers should be aware that there are some quite violent and frightening scenes - they are an important part of the story but could be a bit disturbing.
Clever concept, sending British children abroad as refugees... something they have not experienced. This is a real page turner and aimed at 8/9 year olds upwards who love an adventure story - and what an adventure! The British banks have failed totally. The Government is helpless and it's mob rule everywhere. People who have food are considered the rich ones, and those who have land and can grow a little food in cities and towns are the best off initially, but then come the raiders - those who steal the little food that others have managed to barter for or to grow, or have hidden in the cupboard under the stairs. And when they beat your door down, then your cards are marked - for you are labelled Scadgers and your face is up on facebook. Matt's family have been raided twice when his Mum and stepdad arrange for them all to go, via the Channel Tunnel, to France. That is, until the French Government announce that in 24 hours, the tunnel will close, they just can't take any more refugees. Mat is the oldest, his little brother Taco is only 6, and somehow, they have to survive what is in front of them, and in doing that, to try to forget all that is left behind. A real adventure story, that gives the reader the feel of what it is like to be crowded together with no recourse at all, but to do as you're told by authoritarian figures; to strive to stay the individual that you know you are, and to make friends and try to get on with the business of living under canvas, sharing so little food and constantly looking for ways to make life liveable. Matt, his new friend Paige and his little brother Taco are living the biggest adventure of their lives.
Gillian Cross, former Carnagie Medal winner and author of many children's books can tell a tale, making you read on and on, believing every word, and understanding that children can make decisions too.
Gillian Cross’s latest book will send shivers up your spine – that is, if you care about the displaced and those forced to flee their homes. In recent days, the subject of Syrian refugees has come up again and again. Should they be allowed into Britain or not? It’s hard to truly empathise with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers for many people, especially those of us who live in stable, law-abiding countries. But imagine. What if those refugees were people like you and me? Were British...?
That’s the case in ‘After Tomorrow’. The UK is in chaos. Five banks have collapsed on the same day, leaving the country in anarchy. Infrastructure is failing, law and order are breaking down, food is scarce. Could it happen? Who knows? But in this novel, Cross explores just what those issues mean, and their consequences.
Matt and his family are living the nightmare. His mum and step-dad do what they can to keep him and his brother, Taco, fed and safe. Sometimes, though, a meal can be just a few vegetables or a piece of bread. Bit by bit they manage to build up a food store through growing their own vegetables and swapping items with others. However, they are raided again and again, their food stolen by those who label them ‘scadgers: people who hoard food at the expense of others. Tragedy strikes and Matt’s mum decides they must escape to France before the borders are shut.
Thus begins the story in earnest. Matt’s family (bar his mum and gran) arrive in France, to the unknown. To the French, they are scavengers, living at their expense through free food vouchers and homes. That the vouchers can barely feed a family or that the homes are fragile tents in muddy fields exposed to the elements is irrelevant. As is human nature, though, Matt begins to make friends, relationships are forged, routines established.
Throughout, the refugees play a waiting game: waiting for food, waiting for medicine, waiting for news, waiting to go home. Will they ever make it? We don’t know. There is no ending. We have a conclusion of sorts but no real ending. And that is the reality of many refugees today. Palestinians wait to return ‘home’ nearly 70 years after they were first displaced. Some 100,000 refugees have lived in Western Sahara since the 1970s. New refugees are created as we speak.
Thus in context, ‘After Tomorrow’ is a fabulous book to get the dialogue started in the classroom. It would be a great text for higher readers in Years 5 and 6, and definitely one for lower years in secondary school. The plight of refugees will sadly never go away, and this novel provokes thought, discussion and reflection.
After Tomorrow (written by Gillian Cross of 'The Demon Headmaster' fame!) is an extremely impressive novel aimed at teenagers. Dealing with the aftermath of an economy collapse in the UK, the book begins with Matt and Taco's house being raided by violent intruders intent on stealing their food. As the raids get worse, it becomes clear that the family's best chance of survival is to head to France - but a warm welcome doesn't await them, and they are forced to try and survive under terrible conditions, and make difficult choices.
I found the book completely gripping, and I read it in just a couple of sessions over one day. Even when there's not much action going on, it still held my attention. The characters are very well drawn, and I began to care about them so much that their plights brought me to tears, and even the most minor of characters are three-dimensional. The descriptions really brought the refugee experience to life, and the tension ratcheted up at certain points til I was on the edge of my seat.
As well as being a very entertaining read, the book deals with a lot of important issues, such as the challenges of maintaining a sense of purpose and self amidst a dehumanising situation, and questions of moral relativity - what sort of person should you be willing to become in order to survive? The book does well in showing that there aren't always easy answers, and the way that Matt and also his friend Paige deal with the problems that face them is inspiring.
I would definitely recommend this book, however if you are thinking of giving it to a child, it's worth bearing in mind that there are some quite violent parts, including home invasion and accounts of murder. There is also a scene that can be quite harrowing - it's not made completely explicit what is occurring, but it's obvious that (SPOILER FOR EARLY ON IN THE BOOK) Matt's mother is raped by at least one of the armed home invaders whilst the children are in the room (END SPOILER). This event is referred to throughout the book as something that Matt and Taco aren't allowed to see or later hear about, and any child reading the book who doesn't understand what happened is most likely going to ask questions about it, so it's worth being prepared for that. Because of this, I'd probably say the book is most suitable for ages 11 or 12 upwards, however if this part was missed out then children as young as eight or nine would enjoy the rest of the book.
The storyline involves the breakdown of society, set in the immediate future - I found it very good to read out loud, and the language was suitable for children throughout.
My son wrote a review of the book, which follows:
"This book is set in the near future, and the action is set in England and France. The story focuses on two children: Matt who is about 14 years old, and Taco who is eight. The writer describes a world that is very recognisable in some ways - people use the same gadgets that we do; for example, Taco has a DS, Matt's mum has a mobile phone and people use the internet and watch television. In other ways it is terrifyingly different: society is in chaos after the collapse of the banking system. Money is worthless and food is so scarce that a chicken from the supermarket costs £90.
Gangs of violent men raid the homes of ordinary people for food - Matt's family go through two raids, which makes Matt's mum decide that they should go to France for a better life. The problem is that they need to get there before the French government close the borders. Matt and Taco do eventually get to France - the story is basically about their struggles to survive.
Matt is my favourite character - the story is told from his point of view; you feel you can trust him because he does not make himself out to be perfect. For example, he teases his little brother about his beloved shoebox. He also despises his stepfather Justin, who is weak. Matt has gone through a lot of things - he loses his father just before his fourth birthday, his grandfather dies of a heart attack after a raid, and he has to leave his mother behind in England. He is protective of his little brother Taco, especially during the raids and when they travel to France.
The character I liked least was Bob, because he is dishonest and takes advantage of desperate people. He charges Matt's mum a lot of money to get him to France, and he is the mastermind behind the violent food raids in England.
I loved the ending of the book because Matt, together with his friend Paige triumph over Bob by foiling his plans to remain in France and exploit even more people.
I cannot say that I disliked any part of this book, but I found some bits really sad, like Matt remembering about his father, or when he found out that his grandfather had died.
I would recommend this book because it is exciting, realistic, and a nightmarish vision of how our lives could be."