Melissa's Reviews > Ashes

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
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Oct 01, 11

bookshelves: young-adults-these-days, yikes, apocalyptastic
Read in October, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Oh, what might have been! This starts out so good, so full of promise. The beginning is really scary. I stayed up reading after everyone had gone to bed, gripping my hands together in my lap & literally squirming, whispering, "No, no, don't go in there! No, don't do that!" There's something so unsettling in general about being in the woods & not knowing what the heck is going on, so when you add crazy zombie teenagers into the mix, it gets really freaky. There is some lovely imagery; when Alex & Tom & Ellie come upon the ranger's station glowing with light in the middle of the night, with the tinny music playing, I was besides myself with creep. The characters make some pretty stupid decisions in order to further the plot, but I suppose that's to be expected. If there had been a nuclear travesty that destroyed the country, if there were crazy, cannibal teenagers roaming around eating people, if there was a disturbing premium being placed on the lives of kids in this post-apocalyptic setting, I personally wouldn't let the 8-year-old take the dog for a walk, but you know, I'm not living in a YA novel. There's also the requisite love triangle - "I love Tom! But wait, now I think I love Chris! It's all so confusing!" - so be aware.

Unfortunately, Bick doesn't stay with what works. Halfway through, we leave all the zombie teenagers behind as Alex gets taken into a little town & is not allowed to leave. There's a whole lot of cultish, Bible-quoting, what is the council of Elders really up to? nonsense. It's impossible these days to read an apocalyptic book or see an apocalyptic movie without there being some spooky enclave of folks that are surviving "but at what price?!" & doing terrible things in order to stay safe. While this is supposed to show the terrifying lengths mankind is willing to go to in order to protect itself, it's kind of boring. Councils of Five (or Three, or Twelve), shadowy misdeads, forcibly keeping women against their will so they can make babies - I'm over it. I want what this book was poised to become: a wilderness survival novel with zombies. And cue the horrible, crashing cymbals - it has a sequel. I hate the sequel.
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