Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Wow, Wow, Wow.

This book was ridiculously good. This review has to start with that because it was my immediate feeling while reading and after reading.  Now, for the details.

I picked up Ashes with almost no idea what it was about. From the cover and the little I had heard about it, I knew it was something end-of-the-world-ish. This book does something that few of the dystopian/end of the world books I have read do:  it shows us how the world ends, and that was both terrifying and thrilling.

Ashes opens with the main character Alex hiking off into the woods with the ashes of her dead parents.  Alex has an inoperable brain tumor and assumes she will probably be as dead as her parents soon. It’s clear she’s considering suicide, but that’s not really the point of the hike. When an electromagnetic pulse blasts through the world, Alex finds herself alone with a grief stricken little girl named Ellie. Together they try to survive with few supplies and a growing number of odds against them. When they meet up with another young man, Tom, they become a group of three, still unsure if they are the only survivors. An enthralling fight for survival unfolds from there, pitting the group against other survivors, the coming winter, and people who have changed into something like zombies.

All the main characters in this book are amazingly fleshed out. They have their good moments and bad moments and read like people you know. Each of them is damaged in some way, but all of them possess an unwavering will to live. Alex is the sort of female lead that even Katniss from The Hunger Games wishes she could be (okay maybe that’s mean, maybe I mean Katniss from Mockingjay). Talk about strong! She depends on Tom to help them survive, but she never needs him to save her. These three are thrown together due to circumstances and it reads very real that Tom and Alex hide their pasts from each other, only letting the truth out in small pieces. Ellie is epically bratty and annoying at first, but that changes quickly as she bonds with Tom and Alex and realizes she needs to change due to circumstances.

Now talk about dark, this book is pretty damn honest about how cruddy things are going to be if this ever happens. People are straight up fighting for their lives and are often injured and Bick pulls no punches in her descriptions of  fighting and wounds. The world she describes feels as real as if it were happening right outside your front door. And if Bick knows half as much about surviving as her characters do, then I hope I can find her when the world implodes.

Outside of the main characters, she’s spot on for how the mass of survivors would likely act in this situation. While a few do some together to form community, for those on the outside it is going to be a fight for survival. That fight would be bad enough if it was just a lack of resources and such, but add in the zombie-like creatures and it becomes a whole new level of fighting for your life. Every group in this book is in it for themselves, whether that means they hurt Alex and her friends or help them, you know they have their own agenda.

So as I said, awesome book, go get it today!

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