Title: Ashes
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: 09/06/2011
Genre- Survival Fiction/YA

I’ve never really been one to fear major things like nuclear war, asteroids, or super-volcanoes erupting. They just don’t seem all that likely to me. But the whole electromagnetic pulse thing freaks me out. Not just because it would be a good way for another country to take us out, but because it can happen from something as simple as the massive solar flares from the sun. They’re scary. They have the power to wipe out every electronic thing on the planet. Now, if something like that happened in the 1800’s, it wouldn’t really be a big deal. But we rely on electronics for just about everything today, from pacemakers to car engines. It would be mayhem. In Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, that mayhem goes a step further by throwing cannibalistic zombie-type teenagers into the mix.

Now, I have to admit, zombies are not my favorite horror creature. For the most part, I find them either boring or gross. But Bick’s zombies aren’t really the kind that die and come back. They’re teenagers who are altered in some way by the EMP. They’re still pretty gross though, and they were my least favorite part of the book. I think the regular people who acted like total psychos once everything went haywire were scary enough.

The story follows Alex, a 17-year old girl with a brain tumor, who ends up in the wilderness on the day of the “zap,” as she tries to find her way to safety, or at least find out if there IS such a thing as safety. She is also caring for a young girl that she met only moments before the zap, and eventually meets up with Tom, a former (current? this was never really cleared up) soldier who isn’t much older than Alex. The three of them set off to find a safe place to hole up and avoid the “Changed,” (the aforementioned zombie-like teenagers). Many bad things happen (when Alex says, at the end of one chapter, that this would be the last happy moment, believe her), and midway through the story things completely change for all three of them.

Ashes had really good pacing for a survival fiction book. The story took place over several months, rather than several intense days. The writing is fantastic, the characters are well developed, and the gore is not too gory (although a little more than I could handle while trying to eat when I was reading). For those reasons, I enjoyed the book. I read it in a day, mostly because it creeped me out so much that I wanted to see what happened. I probably shouldn’t have finished right before bed time, because I had nightmares. Usually, my dreams are as backlogged as my “TBR” pile, and it takes a good two weeks before a book affects my sleep. But this one disturbed me so much, it stayed with me throughout the night. Yes, it’s disturbing, on many, many levels. Especially the second half of the book.

Now here’s the thing- I hated the ending. Hated it with such a passion that I screamed “that’s it?!?” and almost threw my Kindle (I was reading a NetGalley copy) until I remembered that Kindles can break. I was livid. But then I read that this is part of a trilogy, and the ending made a lot more sense. It ends on a major cliffhanger. The story is no where near wrapped up, which makes it all that much more disturbing, because you’re left with the ending in your head until the next book comes out. So now I don’t hate the ending and want to know what’s going to happen next.