Friday, June 24, 2011
Ashes, Ashes is a new YA disaster-movie-esque novel by author Jo Treggiari.
Lucy is only sixteen but she has seen and lost a lot. She has seen her home city of New York go from the shiny metropolitan we know it as to a crumbling, ramshackle ghost town. The reason? A small pox epidemic that wiped out nearly all the population, leaving behind a small number of primarily children and the elderly. Also the sudden weather changes in which half of the year is drought and the other half is flooding, overwhelming rains, which has drastically changed the environment of the land and made food scarce.
In quick succession Lucy lost all the members of her family to the disease, leaving her completely alone. She's made herself a little home with her very few belongings and a survival manual she got from an abandoned book store. Each day she works hard just to make it to the next one.
But when a pack of wild dogs pursue her, a good-looking, smirking teenage boy named Aidan helps to rescue her, pulling her into a tree. Its jarring to Lucy to meet another survivor of the epidemic, as she's been alone for so long. He encourages her to follow him back to his camp where there is a group of them, but she has become comfortable with her solitary life. His brief appearance in her life, though, has awakened something in her that has long been dormant: the need for conversation.
So when her shelter is destroyed by a flash tsunami, she finds herself relenting and entering Aidan's camp. Danger, however, is eminent when Sweepers terrorize the camp - grabbing up as many survivors at a time to take them to a clinic for who-knows-what against their will. They never return.
And it seems like, for whatever reason, they really want Lucy...
Ashes, Ashes has a startling opening in which Lucy tries to kill a turtle for food - sickening herself (and me) in the process. It instantly sets the tone. It's a unique one. This girl is more relatable than most of the heroines in dystopia novels. Lucy gives off the feeling that she is not up for this survival-type lifestyle but that she has absolutely no choice but to try. With that there is such a sense of loneliness and despair that permeates the pages of Ashes, Ashes, giving it a down-to-earth quality. So when you match this tone up with the details we're provided relatively quickly on what exactly happened (decimation of world's population, entire landscapes changed dramatically) you are riveted.
Lucy's solitude and bravery in the face of disaster soak through and devastate the reader with admiration for our main character. You get to worrying that there is no hope for a better life, for an easier future for her. There is also an element of mystery and suspense throughout Ashes, Ashes regarding her memories and various clues that there may be more going on than what you initially see.
Another refreshing thing about Ashes, Ashes is that there are no zombies!!! Now, I have nothing against a good zombie book - but I don't need every single post-apocalyptic book to feature them. They're gross. They turn my stomach. Sometimes it's nice to have disaster have a firmer grip on reality. The plague, floods, droughts, and lack of people and security can be scary enough!
As Ashes, Ashes began to reach a frantic pace near the end, my concern for the characters was most definitely there. But I was surprised to feel that the novel lacked the resolution and answers that I thought were coming and would have liked. It didn't seem like the climax fully rewarded us for the quieter moments we spent with Lucy and the investment we grew to have in her and the other survivors. However, Ashes, Ashes was still very good and I still recommend it thoroughly!
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