Dystopians seem to be the new vampires. I loved the new trend - but after a while they started to blur together. I think Ashfall which has been published last year is a breath of fresh air in the young-adult genre.
Alex is home alone when the biggest natural disaster of the century happens. He doesn't know it yet, but the Yellowstone supervulcano has erupted, shrouding the sky in darkness and covering the ground with ash. Will Alex be able to find his family? Or will he become one of the many victims of the disaster?
Ashfall is a very realistic post-apocalyptic book with dystopian elements. It's one of those books that is so painfully real that it makes you uncomfortable. This could actually happen - there are some notes in the back about the facts that made up this book.
I loved how well-researched this book is. I watched Discovery Channel instead of Disney films when growing up, and a lot of details I encountered in the book made me think "ohh, good job incorporating that into the story!".
Young-adult books are very much dominated by girl point-of-view books. I was happy to see that Mr Mullin not only presented a likeable boy, but also one of the strongest girl love interests I've encountered so far. Darla is a wonderful character. She's literally stronger than Alex which I thought was brilliant, and she's a mechanic that can fix about everything. I'm impressed and a little sad at the same time that a male author writes a better female character than so many female writers.
I've read some complaints that Alex only thought about sex and that he just wanted to do Darla. I completely disagree. He truly cares for her, and sex is secondary to that. I found the relationship between Alex and Darla realistic. Which sixteen and eighteen year olds don't think about sex? In most YA girl point-of-view books sex takes a very background role. They don't think much about it, if at all. I'm not sure why. Is it (still) a taboo subject for girls? Are writers afraid they might come across as sluts? All I know is that the sex part was beautifully handled in Ashfall, and it's safe to read for a slightly younger audience, as the scene fades out before any naked stuff happens.
The dystopian elements is where it went a little bit down-hill for me. In fact, it's probably just a cultural difference between me, a girl from the Netherlands, and the intended audience over there in the States. I'm really not afraid that the government will restrict my movements and that the army kind of takes over the country. I'm not afraid that every person you meet has a gun, because to be honest nobody has a gun here. You would have to import it illegally, and I'm sure that's not going to happen if a volcano goes boom. I'm sure it might be scary for people from the USA, but it's one of those things that doesn't work so well for the people overseas.
I would recommend this book in a second for your son/brother or any other male in your family. About halfway into the book I started poking my boyfriend "Read this! You'll love it!". Girls that like their books dark and realistic, feel free to give it a try too.