Ashes (Bick) – book review

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by Ilsa Bick
Audio edition
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)

Alex, a teenage girl with cancer, decides to hike out into the woods to scatter her parents’ ashes and make some decisions about her own life. While she’s out in the wilderness, something catastrophic happens – perhaps an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) – and the whole world changes. Some people die outright, some people change into zombie-like cannibalistic creatures, and others survive but are different somehow – with special or enhanced senses. Everything is chaos and the survivors band together in small groups, defending what they have and taking what they can from others. Alex finds Elly (an 8 year old girl) and Tom (who is a little older than herself) and together they decide to go north, where there are likely to be fewer people (and, presumably, less danger). Almost immediately, things go wrong, and Elly is kidnapped, Tom is wounded, and Alex must go off on her own to seek help. She finds a community, but its members won’t go back for Tom or Elly, and although Alex begins to make peace with this, she discovers a terrible secret that makes it impossible for her to stay.

This takes off as soon as the EMP discharges and the suspense and terror you feel as Alex finds herself in one perilous situation after another is unrelenting. The audio edition makes this almost unbearable, it’s so stressful. Katherine Kellgren, the reader, really brings this to life. Truly scary and gripping. You’ll be dying to know what happens to Alex (and her friends) in the next book (I am!). Note: I’ll probably read the next book, rather than listen to it – I wasn’t kidding about feeling stressed out by the audio edition. My brain can manufacture its own suspense, and Katherine Kellgren’s reading was just too impassioned for me. I need a little distance from my terror, thanks! I’m sure other people will love it for exactly that reason. Excellent read.

Reviewed by YA Librarian


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