ASHES by Ilsa Bick is a unique story of an apocalyptic event that will have your skin slithering and your heart pounding. Written in a militaristic style of attention to detail and precision writing I was instantly in love with the author’s style. I can’t wait to read more from this world and this author. ASHES if you love dystopian is a book you do not want to miss!

Alex, our heroine is broken from the onset. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and battling the pain of the recent loss of her parents, she treks into the wilderness in what is a sort of abstract defining herself period. Intent on being alone she is slightly irritated when an older man and his very surly young granddaughter ask to join her camp. They have barely finished breakfast when something disastrous happens. Screaming pain, odd animal behavior and Alex’s world is suddenly much more complex than only five minutes earlier. Alex and the young girl, Ellie, must make their way out of the wilderness to what they believe is the safety of civilization. Yet, as they trek further towards what they believe to be safe territory a reality starts to unveil before them…and it is not comforting.

The first contact with other humans is the scariest thing you’ll read in ASHES as Bick describes in gruesome details how it would be to view a girl pop an eye out of someone’s socket. On top of the details there is the fact that Bick holds no punches, she lays everything out, gruesome, emotional and non-emotional. This isn’t a story of how the “most centered and perfect person” deals with an apocalypse – this is the story about someone real, someone that weighs out their own survival, deals with a new world where just the act of finding something to eat is a desperate search. Bick mixes apocalypse zombie fiction with dystopian political narratives and makes it into something that is a little more than the usual young adult fiction. This book will get you thinking, scare the crap out of you and have your heart-breaking all in one paragraph. DON’T MISS THIS ONE. I haven’t been this freaked out by a young adult novel in a long time.

One of the main things that stood out in this book was Bick’s voice. Where most female authors possess a, well, to put it bluntly female tone, with focus on love and internalizing emotional trauma, Bick almost had a man’s tone. I may be off at times, but I do believe there is a big difference in the writings of a man and woman. Men tend to take an outside in approach, females inside out. This I believe is why men tend to be so good at writing horror and mystery, women dramas and romance. Stereo typical, yes, but it is a majority, not across the board. There of course are great romantic male authors, just like there are some amazing mystery writers that are female. Now, let me bring it back to Bick. Bick parleyed both worlds. Alex while, very internalized also had a broad viewing, the best of both worlds. The narrative was almost militaristic, which would make sense with Bick’s military background. It led to a highly original tone and a book that shouldn’t be passed up.

Dystopian and apocalypse fans run, don’t walk to get this book. You will not be disappointed. This has violence and some sexual undertones so it is recommended for mature teens.


Young Adult Novel
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