Chernobyl, 1986. The world is coming to an end. Dragged from her bed in the middle of the night and forced to leave her beloved puppy behind, Natasha has no idea if she’ll ever return home. Growing up in the shadow of the ruined nuclear power plant, pups Misha and Bratan need to learn how to live wild – and fast. Creatures with sharp teeth, scythe-like claws and yellow eyes lurk in the overgrown woods. And they’re watching the brothers… But will the dogs survive without humans? And can humans live without them?
Anthony McGowan is one of the most widely acclaimed young adult and children’s authors in the UK. His books have won numerous major awards. In 2020, he was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Lark. He was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal with Rook and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Catalyst Award for Henry Tumour. His YA novel The Knife that Killed Me was made into a critically-lauded film in 2014. Anthony lives in London, with his wife, two children and dog.
My thoughts: this had so many White Fang and Call of the Wild (both by Jack London) vibes. I loved it. We all know I’m a sucker for any story with an animal in it and in this the animals were the stars. The Chrrnobyl disaster and I are the same age (a few months apart) so I don’t remember it, but my parents do and I watched that incredible drama about it during lockdown.
It was really interesting to read a story set in the evacuated area, where only animals and a few tricky people (like Katerina in this book) remained behind. It must have been a real shock to the domesticated animals when their people left. I liked the idea of some of them bonding with their wild cousins, as Zoya does, and joining wolf packs or like Shepherd, staying and guarding their homes. I imagine cats going completely feral. I grew up reading Colin Dann’s City Cats and Animals of Farthing Wood (sob), Watership Down, K.M. Peyton’s horse books, Dick King-Smith (The Sheep Pig among others) and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. This certainly would sit nicely alongside all of those. Bits are sad and bits are frightening – “nature, red in tooth and claw” in action but the ending is lovely. I liked the Natasha sections less – the wolf-dogs were more interesting but I did enjoy the way the two stories wove together. Definitely one for any young (or not so young) animal lovers.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.