Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Genre: YA, dystopia, zombies, romance
Publication Date: September 2011
Synopsis: It could happen tomorrow…
A cataclysmic event. An army of “The Changed.”
Can one teen really survive on her own?
An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it’s a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human…
Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom—a young army veteran—and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.
This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.
☆: 5/5 – a great, action-packed debut!
Review: This book may start out with a quiet rebellion, but it goes out with such a bang that it stayed with me for days afterward. This story doesn’t just approach the idea of zombies differently, but also explores how current technology may be used to trigger the end as we know it in a way I hadn’t even thought of. To do all of this in one book is ambitious, to pull it off is amazing. This is why “Ashes” has made my best of 2011 list.
Usually, with apocalypse stories, your hero(ine) is usually your regular citizen turned hero when the end comes. Bick goes straight for the jugular by choosing a heroine who is already trying to speed ever closer to her own end because she’s sick of being sick, sick of being tired, and just wanting some peace. When we’re introduced to Alex and her backstory, this immediately got my attention. It takes major balls to pick such a heroine when weaving a story within the apocalypse/zombie YA sub-genre – this cannot be emphasized enough. We now have a heroine and a hero, Tom, who are both broken and trying to protect the lost Ellie.
I absolutely love how Bick is unafraid to pick protagonists that people may not like, and even more so, the subtle message that maybe there is no real redemption, no real haven in this sort of situation. We quickly see that Rule has become its own little dystopia in a larger hell on earth, and for all of its harping on biblical traditions and being the light in the darkness, by the end of the book, we see that this is completely turned around. Again, I praise Bick on her choices in how to portray her own vision of the end, and how dark human nature can become in long periods of fight or flight mode. If anything, this makes her zombies from the Zap look positively innocent, and I think this is what she may have been aiming for in the sense of “who’s really the bad guy here?”. The zombies are just kids, completely microwaved, stick-a-fork-in-them done and now following pure animal instinct. Those of Rule and raiders are operating also on animal instinct but with our “moral” side intact, but by the end of the book, it’s almost as if the Zap zapped those morals, too.
To put it lightly, I didn’t see that ending coming at all. It’s hard to catch me off guard like that, so I have to give Bick props for that. Good job with that cliffhanger! It looks like there are more stories from the “Ashes” world on the way, and with all of the twists Bick puts into her stories, it looks like we can’t let down our guard just yet as the reader. But you know what? This is a book that hurts so very, very deliciously, and will leave you wondering who really is the hero, the villain, and the wronged long after the book has been shut (or the nook shut down).
Look for “Ashes” on shelves in North America in September, and the second book, “Shadows”, out sometime in 2012. Seriously. If you’re going to read a zombie book this year, choose “Ashes” to spice up your bookshelf.