Within young adult literature it is rare to find books centered around gay youth, rarer still to locate a gay relationship portrayed accurately. Yet, in R.W Day’s first novel, A Strong and Sudden Thaw, she does just that and creates a world much like our own for a young queer couple.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, the story follows sixteen year old David Anderson and twenty-three year old Callan Landers as they navigate the small town of Molan and its bigotries.
David, a farm boy, and Callan, a Healer (AKA doctor) unexpectedly find each other one day while David takes his sister to the village healer to be treated. There he bumps into the new Healer’s assistant, Callan, and instantly fall head over heels for each other. Their time together discussing books and life soon escalates into something more. Love it seems has no quarter even when all around you is littered with the remains of a destroyed world plagued with dragons.
The imagery evoked by each wonderfully written chapter is clear and concise thereby painting a world which has been devastated by a catastrophe called “The Ice.” In such a world the survivors cling to old ways and etch out a living by scrapping by using primitive hand tools-hunting, knives, bows, etc-and manual labor. In such a world most of the planet is frozen most months out of the year and many people are fervently religious; seeking comfort in their only escape from their drudgery.
Dragons roam the skies stealing sheep and other precious livestock. While no one knows of their origin everyone agrees that they are extremely dangerous and need to be dealt with. Paranoia runs rampant and every townfolk has his or hers own opinion of why, and how, the dragons came to be in their neck of the woods. The truth, however, is more stunning than you would believe.
Fueled by hatred the town people are zealously homophobic, laws stating that execution is the proper way to handle such behavior. While both young protagonists hide their feelings from the community there comes a time when all must be revealed; such a revelation comes at a terrible price however. Along their journey to freedom, and saving the town from the menacing dragons, the two lovers discover allies as well as inner secrets. In the end they not only find love, but themselves as well.
While the book is dark in places and can be a bit depressing it also has it many humorous and light hearted sides. From discussions about sex, names, and becoming a man, there is more than enough variety to please everyone. Chapters are short and readable so expect to sit down and have that, “I can read one more chapter,” feeling. The ending, while leaving the reader on a miniature cliff hanger, concludes with a powerful scenario which one would have to have a heart made of coal not to feel. The first in a trilogy, with the sequel already out, be on the lookout for future installations if you enjoyed this book as much as this reviewer did.