Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Wow. That was the first word that entered my mind as I finished reading “Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick. This story was intense and definitely not my usual read. It’s a thrilling tale of a survival in a world of chaos. Plus, um, it takes place in dah U.P. of Michigan, my college turf. It gets a little gold star for that.

So basically, Alex, a seventeen year old girl with a brain tumor, goes out into the wilderness. It’s kind of a last hurrah, a need to feel alive and connected with her deceased parents. Her treatments aren’t working. She’s out of options. She can’t smell, so she’s losing memories along with her sense of taste, etc. She’s out in the woods and runs across a Grandpa and his sassy young granddaughter. They share a cup of coffee and then BOOM! The world goes cra-zay due a bunch of EMPs going off. Some people, like the grandfather, drop dead while others are changed into something not quite human. Desperate to figure out what is going on, Alex takes the granddaughter and begins the journey to the ranger station. Along the way, she meets Tom, a soldier on leave from Afghanistan, and the three join forces and become a family of sorts, doing their best to survive in this strange new world full of familiar landscapes.

This story is essentially two stories (both about Alex and this apocalyptic world), put together. It seems a lot of my fellow reviewers enjoyed part 1 far more than part 2. The first part follows the story I summarized above, while the second part moves into Alex settling into a culti-ish community for protection. She battles with the decision to stay safe and accept the strange culture or to be free out in the wild. While I agree that the survival story was much more exciting, I really enjoyed seeing Alex in captivity, having her deal with the emotional troubles caused by her actions in part 1 and becoming attached to members of her new town. I’m not usually a reader of thrillers/survival stories, so had it continued to go on I probably would have put the book down. It was INTENSE. Wonderful, cinematic, but super intense. I needed a breather and so did Alex. It makes sense why she ended up where she did and why she struggled, trying to decide whether to stay or go. I liked it, but readers who prefer that level of intensity all the time, may be disappointed.

“Ashes” is NOT a book to read before bed or to give to young teens. It is chock full of violence in Alex’s battle to survive. Some of the descriptions are quite graphic and grotesque, but are appropriate to the story. As I said before, it’s intense. Be prepared for an adrenaline rush and the inability to put the book down.

"Ashes" came out this week by Egmont Publishing. I received a digital ARC via for review. This book was also my Pick of the Month for the September Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast.


  1. Set in da U.P.? Where is the author from?

  2. @Jess - She's from Wisconsin. :)

  3. My favorite books are in apocalyptic settings! I'm so tired of reading the same thing about vampires so I will put this on my reading list :)


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