Monday, August 22, 2011

Dystopian Pick: Ashes

by Ilsa J. Bick
480 pages

Available September 6, 2011

(Blogger's Note: I read this novel in one day and passed it on to my husband who is retired ex-military and who loves survival, zombie, and military books. He couldn't put it down either. This is the BEST dystopian book I've read this year. Don't miss it!)

Gritty, grim, grotesque, gruesome, gratifying and ultimately deeply satisfying, Ashes is this year's best ya dystopian novel. It will have crossover appeal into the adult market and is, in fact, being marketed heavily on military bases and sci-fi, zombie fan,teen blogs and websites.

From the first pages, Ashes grabs the reader, shakes her awake, and takes her on a relentless journey through disaster and ruin, and doesn't let go her go even after the very last word is read and processed. I found myself thinking about this novel for days afterwards wondering, "what if...?" Ashes is the first book in a planned trilogy and the ending leaves you wanting more. Readers will plan to read all three books if the next two are anywhere near as entertaining and compelling as Ashes.

Alex leaves her aunt's home near Chicago to venture into the Waucamaw Wilderness near Lake Superior. She is on an odyssey to save herself and free herself from the "monster," an inoperable brain tumor that will likely kill her soon. Orphaned at age fifteen when her parents were killed in a horrific accident, Alex has learned to be fiercely independent and caustic to strangers she meets. Hiking on the mountain, she runs into a friendly dog, a feisty nine year old with a real attitude and a sweet old grandfatherly type.

An electomagnetic pulse hits and Jack, the grandfather, dies instantly. Alex is knocked to the ground and her brain feels like its on fire. The world has fallen apart and Alex is left to deal with an orphaned nine year old and her dog.

The trio soon find out that nothing is the same. The pulse has changed animals and people, too. They are attacked by a madman who attempts to kill them with his bare hands until a shot rings out, saving Alex. When she wakes two days later, she is introduced to Tom, the man who saved her. Tom is home on leave from Afghanistan and has demons of his own. Tom and Alex figure that a mass of EMP's have been set off to destroy all communications and everything that runs on a battery. The sun turns red and the moon is green at night.

As the foursome try to make it north, they soon realize there's not just one madman, everyone over age 21 has changed into zombie-like creatures. Only the very young and the very old are spared. It makes no sense. Why didn't the blast affect the old people? Why are the children saved? And why is Alex not affected...yet?

When they are separated, Alex escapes death only because dogs now seem to LOVE her. The dogs seem to know who has "changed" or who is "changing." Yet, they embrace Alex as their pack leader. The town of Rule takes her in hoping that her "skills" will help them overcome the zombie hordes. But things are not always as they seem; sometimes those in the right turn out to be horribly wrong...

Part survival novel, part zombie wars, part romance, part dystopian, part sci-fi, part realistic fiction, Ashes is a thrilling read. This book will garner a lot of attention among readers and will likely be on YALSA's (Young Adult Library Services Association) list of Teens' Top Ten for 2011. This is book one of a planned trilogy. I can't wait for books two and three!

Highly, highly recommended grades 8 and up. No sex but lots of gore. Violence. Zombie fans and dystopian fans will eat (pun intended) this up!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My middle school students LOVE dystopian books (many were hooked after reading the Hunger Games Series and In the Forests of Hands and Teeth series) I'd love a chance to win a copy of Ashes to include in our collection.
    Billings, MT

  3. This sounds like a great book. I'm a brand-new LMS starting in a 7-12 library next week, I'd love to add this to my collection. Thanks for the chance to win.

  4. Wow! This sounds fantastic! Thanks for the opportunity to win ASHES.
    Mebane, NC

  5. Thanks for the opportunity - sounds terrific!

  6. Your review made me want to read Ashes now, not next month.

  7. I would love to win!
    Williamsport, PA

  8. This would be a great addition to my library.
    Laredo, TX

  9. This does sound like a great read, right up our teens lopsided reading path. :-) (they are creating a new book club)
    Liberty, MO

  10. Wow, it does sound like a gripping read! Thanks for hosting the giveaway. My email address is tbeth.hull (at) gmail (dot) com
    Woodland, CA

  11. This sounds like a great read! I would love to read it.

  12. The reviews have been great for this book. I have a gaggle of girls at my school that would love to read this book. Thank you.
    Kerrlita Westrick
    Litchfield Park, AZ