Author: Mike Mullin
Publisher: Tanglewood, expected pub date October 2011
Pages: 472 eGalley
Source: Netgalley courtesy of the publisher
I read this back in May, but May was not a good month for me so I am just now reviewing it.
Alex is a normal high school boy living in Cedar Falls Iowa when a super-volcano erupts. Although the volcano is at Yellowstone, it's a SUPER one so it causes lots of problems for people all over the country. Unfortunately for Alex, he is alone in his house when the volcano hits it--literally. A piece of rock flies hundreds of miles and destroys part of his house. His parents and sister are visiting family in Illinois, so Alex is completely alone. He starts out staying with his neighbors while the volcano continues to cause havoc and deafening thunderous booms, but quickly decides he needs to get to Illinois to be with his family. There's no public transportation or working cars because of all the falling ash so all Alex can do is walk. Luckily he finds a pair of his father's skis in the garage which makes the walking slightly quicker. Along the way Alex finds helpful people and murderous people. He spends the bulk of his journey with a young girl named Darla, a MacGuyver-type resourceful farmer who teaches him how to survive off the land.
As with most "post apocalyptic" books (and movies), in Ashfall the worst in human nature often comes out. Most people are just out for themselves and are not above killing and raping to get what they want to survive. But author Mullin does a good job of balancing the dark forces of humanity with some genuinely good people who help Alex and Darla on their mission. He also does a good job of showing how truly connected we are as a nation--the volcano physically affects neighboring states but it also has a severe impact on the nation's economy and the food supply. Money is useless if there's no food to buy.
Alex is a little naive at times but he grows up quickly on his journey. He's a good kid and we want him to reach his family. He and Darla fall in love, but it's done realistically and slowly. They endure horrible events together and it matures them in ways that most teens don't go through. Romance is not the crux of the story however and it will not be enough to turn off boys. The main story is survival and adventure. This is not a boy book or a girl book. It will appeal to both. Boys will like the harsh survival story. Darla is a strong character and girls will like reading how she is just as crucial to their survival as Alex.
The book ends how we expect it to with a little twist and sets Alex and Darla up for further adventures. Readers will be happy to know the sequel, Ashen Winter, will be published in the fall of 2012.
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