Ashfall (Ashfall #1)Hot
Mullin's view of our post-apocalyptic world is grim, much more than in books like Life As We Knew It, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Pretties. This is more comparable to The Road (not that I'd know, eek) or The Walking Dead. It's also probably more realistic--when good runs out, things get dire. It's for this reason that I don't think Ashfall is suitable for middle school students. Violence, rape, and cannibalism are all facts of life in the wake of the eruption.
Books like this always make me want to stock my cabinets and become more self-sufficient. I don't know anybody who grew up on a farm, so I wonder if Darla is a realistic character. I feel like she might be, which shames a useless city girl like me.
There are some great parts of the novel; it's suspenseful and full of unexpected surprises. Perhaps my favorite aspect was how it broached safe sex. Alex and Darla have an intense courtship and want to make it more physical. Their discussions are among the most pragmatic I've encountered and far more mature than I've seen between adults in similar "end of days" situations, like on "Lost". My one quibble is that he negates it by having them wonder if condoms are reusable and never answering the question (They're not, kids!).
For the first book in a series, Ashfall wraps up fairly nicely and I don't feel a burning urge to read Ash Winter when it comes out in October. I guess I prefer my blissful ignorance, although I will pick up a few extra cans of tuna at the market when I go next.
Safe sex talk
The hook is that a super-volcano underneath Yellowstone explodes causing apocalyptic conditions across America. Two teenagers, Alex and Darla, do whatever it takes to survive–even if that means murder.
The protagonist of the book is Alex, and the novel is told from his point of view. But the real hero of the story is Darla, who’s part MacGyver, part 4H genius. If you ever need to butcher an animal, you want Darla by your side.
I don’t normally like books that stress me out with every page turn, but the relationship between Alex and Darla was so well written that I can see why my Facebook friends love this book. I’d also like to point out the #WeNeedDiverseBooks opening, where a neighborly gay couple shelters Alex from doom.
Kudos to Tanglewood Books for recognizing the power of Ashfall. This is exactly why small publishing houses are so important.
If I were to try to describe this in five words I think I would choose: Emotional, real, scary, fantastic, and gripping. And even then I don’t think that sums it up well enough to be satisfied. I pretty much love it, I love it the way a mother loves her child…okay maybe not that much because I can’t see myself carry this around for 9 months and then having it near me for the next 18 years (though hopefully it will be on my shelf for as long as possible). But I do love it, just not in any way that someone other then a book lover can understand. Okay…now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, or at least down to a manageable level I’ll try to talk about the book without assaulting your eyes with my professions of love and book PDA.
First off I’m am so pleased to have a guy main character! So refreshing! I may be a female but I can honestly say that sometimes I just get tired of reading about woman, and I usually end up more frustrated with females then males. Alex is great. He’s not a Bear Grylles in disguise kind of guy, nor is he overly sheltered nerd who is going to end up whining most of the time. He’s normal by majority of society’s standards and more importantly, he’s relate-able. He’s a pretty easy guy to understand and he doesn’t constantly bash you over the head with his enormous grief about one thing or another. Which is something I think that Mullin did an excellent job with. There are so many things that happen in this book that would tear a person down and if perhaps some other author had been writing this you would have heard about how terrible each instance was until you no longer cared, but Mullin did it perfectly. Given the overall situation he added in the believable amount of emotions without going overboard and smothering you with them, and you can easily believe and see how the character deals with it over time without being told constantly. Darla is also a fantastic character and the perfect…unperfect…match for Alex. In most situations those two would probably have past each other with maybe a glance or smile, and they had very little in common before the volcano. But the way the two came together, how they got to know each other, and how they stick together is something that easy to see in your mind and easy to believe.
The main plot is where this book leaves me with staring at the keyboard trying to put my thoughts into words. While we may never, and hopefully never will, see this event come to pass it is something that can become a reality without too much thought on the hows and whys. The supervolcano under Yellowstone is real, and it’s something that I personally have found unnerving since I learned what it truly was and the power it holds. With in the first few chapters, pages even, I could tell the amount of research and knowledge that went into this book was enormous. And yet again Mullin handles all the details, big and small, with perfection. He doesn’t try to spell out every little thing and he doesn’t explain things in such a way that it leaves you scrambling for a dictionary. The gritty and sometimes delicate issues dealt with in the book range from simple need of female products to nearly all the atrocities that humans are capable of in the name of survival. It’s not overly sensitive by spoon feeding you each thing and it doesn’t spell out every gory little detail, but it’s described in a way that you understand it all. At points I was practically cringing, or wide-eyed with shock…other moments I had a smile on my face. I think that all of this has a lot to do with the fact that it is written in Alex’s voice, he tells you what he saw and what he felt. So you get that personal feel for what’s happening and by the time I was finished I had already made a checklist for my emergency kits.
So the big question is, would I recommend this book? To which I promptly answer with a semi high pitched sequel of yes! It’s certainly not something to give or read to the younger ones but anyone in high school is well acquainted with a good deal of the subjects so this will be fine, if not perfect. I can’t wait for the next one to come out as I’m really curious to know what’s going to happen and how they deal with a volcanic winter.
- Strong and realistic main characters.
Think YOUNG ADULT 'THE STAND', only better.
Alex is a fifteen-year old boy. He's home alone when the world experiences a near apocalyptic catastrophe. When a Yellowstone National Park supervolcano erupts, Alex's world is turned completely upside down. As the volcano erupts within the first few pages of this story, Mullin has us sitting on the edge of our seats right away. And he never lets us go. This is one of the most action packed young adult novels I have ever read.
Alex's home was destroyed in the volcano's initial blast. Luckily, he made it out of the house. The couple across the street, Darren and Joe, help Alex during the first day or so, as the volcano continues to erupt and explode.
Once the world returns to quiet, Alex has one thing on his mind--make it to his parents and sister. Big problem--they are hours away by car. In this new world, there are no cars. A thick blanket of ash covers everything. Alex embarks on the journey of a lifetime into the new world of ash and catastrophe.
What Alex meets along his journey makes this one of the best young adult novels I have ever read. He comes upon good people and killers. It is up to him to determine which camp they each fall into. At a farmstead, he finds Darla and her mother. Darla is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. Taught by her father to be handy with tools, as well as problem solving and inventive, Darla brings a lot to the table. Not to mention, Alex's attraction to her.
As things heat up in this new post-apocalyptic world, stakes are raised. People change...become more survival oriented, more singular. After an incident on Darla's farm, she and Alex continue Alex's journey together. Along the way, they learn how to survive together in their new surroundings--and simultaneously lose their innocence and leave their childhoods behind.
I don't want to give anything away. Just know that terrible things happen and heroic things happen. You will love these two amazing main characters. Both are strong and independent. It was extremely refreshing to see just how strong Darla was--a great female role model, excellently written. As a reader, I was totally captivated by this story. It held me in its grip from first page to last. Take the journey across this new horrifying America with Alex. All you have to do is pick up the book and start reading. And, if you're a fan of The Stand, by Stephen King, you'll know what I mean when I say this is reminiscent of that book. But I found ASHFALL to be SO MUCH BETTER than The Stand. I loved loved loved this book!
-Writer Creates an Amazingly Exciting Post-Volcanic World!
This definitely falls into the realm of shit goes to hell really, really quickly. In some ways, I question that. How could all of the food everywhere pretty much been claimed within a matter of days, especially given how difficult it was to move around? I mean, maybe that's realistic, but, goodness, how can anyone survive that?
Whatever concerns I may have about certain story elements, it certainly makes an excellent dystopia, especially since, despite the terrifying, it was really amusing to think back to geology. Also awesome was the fact that, even though the weather and all that is certainly bad, the real danger after the initial volcanic onslaught, is definitely other people. Trusting anyone is tough, since most people would rather kill you and take your food than look at you; some might even just eat you.
When the second book in the series comes out, I will definitely be reading it, to find out more about Alex and Darla, whether his parents survived and whether anyone can possibly live through this business. Recommended especially to people who liked Life as We Knew It. This is so much better and so much darker.