Reading level: Young Adult
Size: 476 pages
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in the Ashfall series
Source: eGalley through NetGalley.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an eGalley of this book through NetGalley(dot)com. I love reading survival, post-apocalyptic type books and was eager to read about a world in which the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts (I was just in Yellowstone a couple weeks ago, so it was strangely fitting). This was a good book; not exceptional but a decent read. A sequel called, Ashen Winter, is planned for release in October 2012.
Sixteen year old Alex is spending a weekend at home alone when his house is hit by something and set on fire. Little does he know that the supervolcano in Yellowstone has erupted. As ash clogs the air, temperatures drop, and civilization collapses Alex decides to travel to the east in an effort to reach his parents. Along the way he struggles with ash filled air, lack of food, and desperate humans doing what they much to survive.
You can’t help but compare this book to Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Granted that book is about an asteroid hitting the moon, but the results are similar. In that book many volcanoes erupt causing the characters to face many of the issues (if in a bit smaller scale) that Alex faces in this book. While I enjoyed reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel that I’ve read about a lot of these issues (air quality, blocking out sunlight, long winters, lawless humanity) before.
This book has a lot of themes that other post-apocalyptic books do. Alex not only struggles against nature but against other humans trying to survive in a lawless society. You also see similar themes of refuge camps being horrible places to live and the military taking advantage of humans who don’t have the firepower they do. Basically when faced with mass destruction, humanity shows both its best and worst face.
Alex is an interesting character; he knows karate so that gave him a good skill set for surviving the lawlessness he faced during his travels. He is also very resourceful as he shows by realizing that skis would travel well over ash (although anyone familiar with snow would probably draw the same conclusions).
Things get a lot more interesting when he meets up with Darla. Darla is incredibly strong, resourceful, and really an amazing girl. Her and Alex make a great team and watching them fall in love between attacks, horrible storms, and refuge camps is especially touching.
The book is paced well and the question that really drives the story forward is will Alex make it to his parents. The way the story ends is well done but definitely set up for a sequel. The book is well-written, easy to read, and engaging. The author includes an excellent afterward talking about Yellowstone and some of the other volcano eruptions the story is based on.
Overall while I enjoyed this book I didn’t think it was incredibly original. Alex faces many of the same problems that the characters in Life As We Knew It face. The same issues of lawlessness, starvation, air quality, refuge camps, and abandonment by the government are dealt with. This book is a bit more violent than Life as We Knew was. The thing that sets this book apart from other post-apocalyptic books is the relationship that develops between Alex and Darla. Both of these characters are amazingly resourceful and watching them fall in love through all the hardships they face was a beautiful thing. The book is well-written and I would recommend to those who enjoy post-apocalyptic YA reads. I would also recommend Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, and The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel by Alden Bell.