Alex skipped school to go on a camping trip by herself. She has an inoperable brain tumor and she figures it wouldn’t hurt to take some time off school. When she randomly encounters an old man and his granddaughter, Ellie, there is suddenly an incredibly strong electromagnetic pulse that destroys any electronic or computerized device and kills billions of people. Some survive, typically older people, and some become Changed: brutal, savage young adults and children whose only interest is to kill and eat others. Alex, along with Ellie and Tom, a soldier that saved their lives, form a family unit that protects each other through all the violence and death. Through a series of events, they are separated. Alex ends up at a place called Rule, a community of people that look to a panel of elders for all of their decisions. Is this place a haven or a prison? Is there something beneath the façade that is more nefarious? Will she ever reunite with Ellie and Tom?
My sister is a huge zombie fan. She received an ARC of Ashes and bothered me almost daily to read this amazing zombie book that she couldn’t stop thinking about. I finally conceded, not really knowing what I was getting into. I can definitely say that my sister was completely justified in her obsession. This is one of the most realistic and unique young adult zombie novels. The EMP that creates the zombies is reminiscent of the film The Signal, but I’ve never read a book that used a technological cause for zombies. It throws a wrench in a lot of things we take for granted, like cars, computers, digital watches, and phones. Dealing with zombies is now exponentially harder to deal with. The zombies in this novel aren’t really dead, but living young people that suddenly turn murderous and savage. They are even more frightening than conventional zombies because they become smarter and more organized as time goes on. The zombie scenes don’t take up much of the novel, but they are extremely gory. The afflicted are all young adults or children and could change at any time without warning, making the older survivors wary and even violent towards young people. This is chilling on many levels. It’s wonderful to see authors in teen fiction pushing boundaries.
The zombies were only really present during the first half of Ashes. The second half featured Alex staying at a place called Rule, a small town run by religious fanatics. The quiet horror is a big contrast to obvious violence and gore at the beginning, but both are equally effective. Rule shows that the zombies aren’t the only thing to be feared in this new world. Regular people can be just as damaging as the zombies. Alex becomes resigned to her life there after a while which is completely understandable. Life in Rule is the complete opposite of the frenetic pace in the wild: slow, normal, even boring. As she spends more time there, the mundane is outweighed by suspicious events. She views it more as a cage and seeks to find the truth.
The characters are amazing. Alex is an unexpected protagonist, mature beyond her years because of her inoperable brain tumor. She is resourceful, pragmatic, and determined to survive. Ellie, on the other hand, was an insufferable ingrate at the beginning, but slowly learned to trust Alex and lost the chip on her shoulder. I went from wishing she would be eaten by zombies to practically crying when she was separated from Tom and Alex. Tom was a fine character, but not as developed as the others maybe because he isn’t present for a lot of the book.
Ashes would be right at home shelved among the ranks of my favorite adult zombie books. I love this book and I can’t wait for the next book. My only complaint is the ending felt abrupt and a little bit cliché because it seems like every YA series starts with a cliffhanger ending now. I would recommend this to any member of Team Zombie or fans of dystopian novels.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins
If you're interested in reading an excerpt from Ashes, you can read the first 100 pages at io9.com.
If you're pre-ordering the book, you should enter the contest hosted by Jennifer Laughran, Ilsa Bick's agent. Just send your proof of pre-order to her and you could win an Ashes dog tag, bookmark, pin, survival kit, or tablet/e-reader. Isn't that awesome? Contest ends 9/5, so hurry if you want an opportunity to win!
Giveaway Time! I have 1 ARC of Ashes to give away to one lucky reader. It's super easy to enter: just leave a comment with your email address. Being a follower is appreciated, but not required.
Open internationally. Ends 10/3. Good Luck!