Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: Ashes

by Ilsa J. Bick
465 pages
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Source: My Bookshelf
An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushed her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom - a young soldier - and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it's now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Alex treks out into the woods in order to face her personal demons, but what starts out as a routine camping trip quickly turns into a nightmare. What was the horrible scorching pain that killed Ellie's grandfather, made the animals go crazy and brought back Alex's sense of taste and smell? Why aren't any electronics working? And most importantly, why are young people everywhere turning into flesh eating monsters?

Ilsa J. Bick definitely knows how to craft a compelling story. Part survivalist adventure and part apocalypse craziness, Ashes proves to be nearly impossible to put down. But I will warn you: As awesome as this book is, it is also really brutal. Ilsa spares the reader nothing, especially not in the area of violence. There were several sequences that were so grisly I found myself cringing. And if you are particularly affected by animal violence (like I am) then be warned that there are several sequences of extreme animal violence.

The one great thing that comes out of Ashes brutality is that it creates the perfect apocalypse atmosphere. The character's desperation is palpable as they try to survive in this new and terrifying world. Speaking of the character's I really loved Alex as the protagonist. She felt very human; strong one minute, scared and guarded the next. Ellie and Tom were also great characters. Some people might find Ellie's whining attitude annoying but I actually liked her. She was almost comforting to me. Like a promise that even if there was an apocalypse there would still be small children around for me to babysit. :P

A lot of people have been talking about how a "twist" near the end of the novel made them dislike Ashes. I'm keeping this review spoiler free but I will say that I didn't even realize what this "twist" was until I finished reading the book and then looked back and really thought about it. Apparently my idea of a "twist" was completely different from everyone elses. :P As for what I thought about this "twist" I have to say that I'm on the fence about it. I still think that Ashes was a fantastic book, but the fact that this "twist" caused the introduction of a bunch of new characters kind of detracted from the overall story. The bottom line is if an author wants me to really care about certain characters they need to give me more than just 1/3rd of the book to get to know them. Otherwise I really won't give a crap about whether or not they live or die. That was really the only noticeable flaw I could find in Ashes.

There were plenty of other aspects to Ashes that I loved (freaky zombie-like teenagers? HECK YES! Crazy WTF ending? HECK YES!) but if I keep writing this review it would probably end up being so long no one would want to read it. So in conclusion Ashes is a great dystopian novel. It's a fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller and I encourage anyone who is a fan of dystopia's to read it! Ashes gets 4 and a half out of 5 ice cream cones.

Is anyone else dying for Ashes sequel? With a crazy cliffhanger ending like that I don't know how you couldn't be!

Julia :)

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