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Justine Larbalestier
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Josef Škvorecký, Paul Wilson
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Ashes - Ilsa J. Bick EDIT: LOL, just re-read this review. Jeez, it's so serious in the days before my Book on Trial reviews. I'm creeped out by the lack of puns and cheap shots. :'D


Ashes was a pleasant and refreshing surprise in the genre of post-apocalyptic teen fiction (or pre- and post-"apocalyptic", rather).

Readers follow the story of Alex, a terminal patient, counting down the weeks to her end. It starts off with her mission to Lake Superior, hiking through the woods, to spread her parents ashes over the lake.

But she never makes it. She encounters a young girl, Ellie, and her grandfather when the EMP attack occurs. Suddenly, Alex and Ellie recognize themselves as survivors of some sort of "zap attack" and Alex finds she has changed (enhanced sense of smell and her brain tumour seems to have been rendered dormant). But she isn't the only one who has changed. Kids her age and older have become wild and cannibalistic.

And just as she and Ellie are about to meet their demise at the teeth of one of the Changed, they are rescued by Tom, ex-soldier from Afghanistan that is on leave.

As the three escape to the north, they encounter more "survivors" and eventually are wrenched apart by raiders who take Ellie with them. With Tom injured, Alex seeks help at a local town, Rule, and finds herself trapped in a sort of cultic setting where the Spared kids her age are valued and used to create a future (quite literally used for their baby-making abilities).

But Rule isn't exactly the comforting place the elders make it seem. There are factions and internal struggles; secrets and abilities, like Alex's, that have been masked; and a very dark, doomed, end-of-the-world attitude. But when Alex finally escapes she realizes she may be in over head. Rule is not fighting the Changed-they are feeding them.


Just like vampires, post-apocalyptic teen fiction has been getting a lot of attention recently. The Hunger Games may be to blame for that, as well as the influences of The Giver and such, but the fascination with the end of the world as we know it has been an ongoing topic of study for ages. It was only a matter of time before it became a hot topic in literature.

Ashes does not disappoint the subject either. It has been a long time since I've read a fiction book and, from it, learned true things that I never knew before. Bick is clearly a knowledgeable person in general, and does not shy away from it. She uses what she knows and what she has researched as possibilities (EMPs), and twisted it into a not-quite-paranormal story of survival, love and the end of the world.

I think what I love the most about this first part to the story is the honesty in everything to characters do, think and say. There is no wrapping true feelings and occurrences up in a pretty package with a bow on top. It's ugly and it's certainly going to get uglier. That's not to say there isn't some good in there-there's plenty, but you certainly take it with a grain of salt.

I definitely suggest this to anyone who has read The Hunger Games trilogy or enjoys mature, YA fiction (with gore).