Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ashes (Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.


Released: September 6, 2011          Pages: 480
Publisher: Egmont USA                 Source: Library

First Look: ***** This looked pretty interesting. I enjoy dystopians that present a what-if situation of something that could easily happen in the near future. The praise from Michael Grant didn’t hurt, either. Some authors, when I see praise from them on a book, I’ve learned to ignore said book, because I haven’t liked any other books they’ve praised. Some authors, though, I’ve liked pretty much every book they have praise on. I love Michael Grant’s Gone series, and he had glowing praise on the front cover of The Marbury Lens, which I also loved.* 
paperback cover

Setting: ***** I liked this aspect of the novel. It seemed plausible enough, which I enjoyed. Okay, I’m no rocket scientist, so I honestly have no idea if some of this stuff would actually work, but it sounded like it made sense. I enjoyed the fact that it seemed liked something that could happen to our world today. For the most part, the author did a good job creating a realistic view of the world after this particular apocalypse.

Characters: ***** They were alright. Our main character, Alex, was well-developed. She had an interesting backstory. I’ve never known anyone who had a brain tumor, but her actions regarding her tumor seemed realistic. Tom was also realistic enough, as were the other major characters. My problem with the characters was that, for whatever reason, I had trouble connecting to them. Maybe it was the narration—I’m not sure. There’s no specific reason I can think of; I just wasn’t rooting for them the way I would have wanted to.

I am impressed, though, by the author’s depiction of Ellie. For whatever reason, authors seem to have a nearly impossible time writing realistic little kids. Adults they can do, and teenagers can be sometimes pulled off in realistic manner, but it’s rare that I see a realistic younger kid in a book. Ellie was eight years old (or nine, I’m not sure), and she acted realistic, which I appreciated.

Plot: ***** I liked the fact that it was, for the most part, a straight-up, Hatchet-style survival story. Sometimes it’s refreshing to read a plot that’s simple, in that way. The characters have one goal: survive. If done right, it makes for a very focused and tight plot. This plot, though, got a little slow for me. It dragged a bit in the middle. The stuff-happening-ness picked up at the end, but it wasn’t enough to carry the entire plot through for me. (“Stuff-happening-ness” is a technical term. What else would I call it? In case you were wondering, definition: Stuff-happening-ness: the rate at which stuff happens (or rate at which stuff does not happen).)**

Uniqueness: ***** It stood out from other dystopians, with its concept and lack of attempts to copy either The Giver or The Hunger Games.

Writing: *****It was okay. Again, I don’t have much specific as to why I didn’t enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t dislike it, and there wasn’t really anything wrong with it, as far as I could tell. It just didn’t click for me, for whatever reason.

The one thing that annoyed me, though, was the use of the phrase “the girl” over and over. As in, something like this: “Alex got in the car, so the girl could drive to the store.” That’s a horrible example, but… Basically, what the author would do is use Alex’s name, then use “the girl” later to refer to her. This is fine, in principle, but it really annoys me. I don’t know about anyone else, but it feels almost condescending when an adult author does this. It takes me out of the story for a minute, reminds me that the character is not an adult, and then drops me back into the story. I don’t like it.

Likes: I liked how dogs played a big part of the story. I also like the paperback cover much more than the hardcover one. I love the sideways text and the color scheme.

Not-so-great:Some of the slang used by the characters seemed a little outdated. Anyway, the phrase “hightailed it” just bothers me, no matter who uses it. I have no logical reason for this—it just annoys me.

Overall: This was an okay book, for me. I have no major reasons for not fully enjoying it. I just didn’t connect with it, for whatever reason. The premise was cool, though, and it presented an interesting “what-if” scenario. If it looks interesting, I’d recommend this, but otherwise I’d pass. An okay read.

*This author-love is one reason I’m super-excited for the release of the debut novel Seraphina, which came out on the 10th of July. It’s got glowing praise from Christopher Paolini right on the front cover. I have never, ever seen that before.

**I can be like Shakespeare, coining my own phrases all the time. Someone has to do it…. A few hundred years from now, people might just be using phrases coined by me. Like, “stuff-happening-ness”. Or “steampunky” (an adjective to describe things with a prominent steampunk aspect), or “splendiferosity” (a state of splendid terrificness), or “conflictuate” (a verb, “to add conflict”), which are other words I’ve used in my reviews.

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