Ruby's Reviews > Ashes, Ashes

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
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's review
Dec 16, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: teen, post-apocalyptic

This review was first posted at

I am, unabashedly in love with this novel. Last year I read the Last Survivors trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer and, while I loved those, by the time I got to the end of the third book I was contemplating burning all three volumes. That's how depressed they made me--I was considering burning books--complete sacrilege. Ashes, Ashes includes many of the things I loved about Pfeffer's books, blessedly without the incredibly depressing ending. I said in a review I recently wrote that I was getting tired of Dystopians, and that's true. Ashes, Ashes isn't a Dystopian so much as it's Post-Apocalyptic. This is a differentiation that Jo Treggiari has made clear to me. Most Dystopians take place far after some apocalyptic event, which is the aspect that always confused me. But the difference is that both Pfeffer's trilogy and Ashes, Ashes tell the story of those living in the immediate aftermath of an apocalyptic even, when everything has gone to hell. Dystopians--like Matched, Delirium, The Hunger Games and company--take place in more distant futures, after the apocalyptic event has led to strict, imperfect regimentation of society. To put it mildly.

I'm fascinated with stories where humans have to learn how to live all over again. I'm fully aware that without modern technology I would be completely worthless. The very idea of going without running water horrifies me and I have an orange thumb. Why orange you ask? Because it's on the complete opposite side of the color wheel from a green one. It's probably because I'd be complete crap at it that I enjoy reading about people being forced to go back to basics. In Ashes, Ashes, the heroine (Lucy) learned to survive without using a wilderness guide. She learns to set traps, to skin animals and use their hides and cook them for food, how to forage and make acorn mush. Everything Lucy eats she has to obtain with great expenditure of energy. At least, greater than going to the fridge or the pantry.

In Ashes, Ashes, we get to experience something of what it's like for the rules to suddenly change underneath your feet. In a Dystopian, the rules of the society are already set. The characters have generally grown up in a world that was Dystopian even before they were born. I find it a great deal more compelling to see how people are forced to adapt when the world around them changes so drastically that it completely alters the way they live, the way they think, and the way they interact with people. Yet, the issues in Ashes, Ashes are relevant, even in a non-apocalyptic society. How do you decide who to trust? When is self-reliance foolish and not brave?

If I had one complaint about this novel it would be that there wasn't enough of it. I'd love to follow Lucy and Aidan in the next stage of their adventure, and I'd love to know more about them. Both are compelling characters, but more of their backstory would be appreciated, particularly in Aidan's case. I read on Jo Treggiari's website that she has more stories to tell in the Ashes, Ashes universe. And let me tell you: they can't come soon enough for me.

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