Ilsa J. Bick, EdgemontUSA, expected publication date Sept 6, 2011, 480 pages, young adult dystopian.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It could happen tomorrow...
A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed."
Can one teen really survive on her own?
An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...
Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom---a young army veteran---and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.
This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.
For some reason, this book has taken me some time to wrap my head around and review, maybe it is because if I had to describe it in one word it would be "epic". I read it, or shall I say, tore right through it, but then had to think about it for a bit. I loved the book, even if it was very different from what I expected - it is definitely a story of survival and horror. Even with its love triangle, Ashes is definitly different from the other YA romance dystopian books out there.
The beginning is really good and fast paced - we learn about Alex and her condition in a concise and intriguing way. Bick has me turning the pages to see what will happen next and how the scenario plays out. It is a book where everything goes from bad to worse, then worse again, then even worse again.
The writing is vivid and imaginataive with some interesting phrasing (though there is the odd bit of distracting grammar), and this definitely applies to the gory bits - this book is quite brutal and has a great deal of graphic violence. However, Bick's writing really drew me in and I loved how she was able to create tension, even when there wasn't much action. She also used omnicient narrator quips that set reader up for tension, because we then know things that the characters don't.
The story is told from Alex's point of view (but not first person present as so many books are right now), and I really felt for her. Alex is a strong heroine, capable, intelligent and likable, but in a horrible situation. I absolutely loved Ellie, the young girl that Alex finds herself looking after. She has some great, honest reactions that feel authentic to her age. I liked Tom as well, the army veteran and love interest for Alex, but I also felt a bit reserved about him, though I am not positive why. Maybe he just felt a little more stereotypical. Then there are the dogs, I love the addition of all of the dogs and how they add to the book.
Probably my favorite part of this book, and something I have found with other zombie type books lately, is the exploration of human nature and how people act in stressful or lawless situations. I love how Bick delves into what is a monster - is it cancer? is it zombies? is it people who have free will and act in ways they never would under normal circumstances? She also gets into the roles of hope and fate and freedom.
Ashes ends with a great cliffanger and I can hardly wait to read the next book in this series. I would highly recommend this book to those who like zombie books or who don't mind graphically brutal scenes, but who like a good post-apocolyptic story.