The Road to Winter (Mark Smith, Text)
Since the virus, Finn lives alone in his small coastal town with just his dog for company. He keeps his head down and lives off the supplies his father stored away, filling his days by setting rabbit traps and going for the occasional surf. But everything changes when Rose arrives in town, fleeing from the thuggish men who kept her and her missing sister captive. Set in a future where a virus has destroyed the world as we know it, The Road to Winter introduces a dark landscape where gangs control the land and asylum seekers—Sileys, like Rose—are sold at auction to be used as slave labour. This exploration of the treatment of asylum seekers is chilling and easily one of the strongest features of the novel, but it is undermined by a vague set-up and a plot that doesn’t quite live up to the strong tradition of Australian YA dystopia. However, there is plenty to like here: it is engaging, even if it does leave quite a few things unanswered, and Finn’s strong voice carries the story and leaves you wanting to know what will happen next. This is a slightly problematic but solidly entertaining read for readers aged 14 and up.
Meg Whelan is the children’s and young adult book buyer at the Hill of Content bookshop in Melbourne