Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ashes - by Ilsa J. Bick

This one had me hooked right up until the last page, at which point I was left teetering over the edge of a mega cliffhanger. There’s plenty of meat in the story to keep you wanting to know what happens next, though, so in my case I was left feeling out of breath and a little bereft, rather than cheated. I’m not usually drawn towards fiction aimed at a YA market because so often it seems to be shorthand for “no way this one would pass muster with the grownups” or for some watered-down, sanitized version of a “real” story, but that is not what this book is AT ALL. This book could be called “young adult” because, well, the main characters are young adults and it is written from a point of view that young adults will be able to empathize with, but this book can stand on its own against the best “any-age-adult” novels out there. The author has done a great job at creating believable teenage characters that actually sound and act like real people.

The story starts off with the central character, Alex, hiking alone en route to Lake Superior where she intends to scatter her parents’ ashes. Not only is Alex skipping out on school to take this trip, she’s also pointedly avoiding continued medical treatment for an apparently incurable brain tumor, and giving serious and rational thought to eventual suicide while she’s at it. Her plans for a solo trip through the backwoods are changed rather abruptly when she happens across an old man and his bratty granddaughter and they’re hit almost immediately by a massive electromagnetic pulse. From this point on, scary apocalyptic stuff ensues, and the book takes on that un-put-downable quality that’ll have you reading greedily until you finish the very last page. Then you might find yourself looking behind the very last page hoping there might be something else squirreled away there, because, as I mentioned to begin with, this book ends on a dizzying cliffhanger that will leave you twitching and suffering from some serious withdrawal symptoms and a bad case of "what-happens-next?!?" syndrome. That’s OK, though, because (and this is something I only figured out after turning that last page and thinking “WHAT?!??!”) Ashes is the first installment of a trilogy, so there is plenty more of this gorily compelling page-turner yet to come.

I’ll avoid delving too deeply into the contents of this book as I don’t want to spoil anyone’s reading for them, but will finish by saying that Alex is a great heroine. She’s strong-willed, rather feisty and quick-tempered, extremely capable and self-sufficient, and a pretty likeable, self-aware human being with it. This makes for a character that the reader can actually identify with, care about and respect as she deals with finding herself more truly “alone” than she ever could have hoped when setting off to get away from everyone and everything at the novel’s opening. Ashes is a book I would highly recomme... and please bear in mind that this recommendation comes from someone who, if she shies away at the words “young” and “adult” in a book’s jacket blurb, positively comes out in hives at the sight of the word “zombies”. “Young”, “adult” and “zombies” are, let’s say, not the ingredients of a book I’d ever think I’d enjoy, let alone rave about, but Ashes really is one to read.

Ashes is available right now in hardback, ebook and audiobook format. I'm sure you know where you can find such things.


  1. This book sounds fantastic! I like the fact that it kept you guessing until the last page. Wow! I added this to my list.



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