Melanie can’t remember a time before she came to the school, but she doesn’t mind. She’s safe here, locked behind a thick metal door at the bottom of a flight of steps, with her few classmates and their teachers. They’re protected from the world outside, where humanity has withdrawn into the survivors’ outpost of Beacon on the south coast, and the countryside has been taken over by gangs of ‘hungries’ infected by the plague that spread during the Breakdown. There’s comfort in the children’s routine: the people who strap them into their chairs each day before taking them to class; the Saturdays locked in their cells; the Sundays with the foul chemical showers. This is all that Melanie has known. But things are about to change, and Melanie will find herself forced to revisit all her certainties as she – and a small group of adults – find themselves alone outside.