by Ilsa J. Bick
Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed... Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the zombies that are on the hunt, Alex meets up with Tom - an Army veteran who escaped one war only to find something worse at home - and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to find food, shelter, while fighting off the 'Changed' and those desperate to stay alive. A tense and involving adventure with shocks and sudden plot twists that will keep teen and adult readers gripped.
Ilsa J. Bick pulls you into this horrifying apocalyptic world by the throat and doesn't let go until you are begging for more. Don't say uncle to this book.
Ashes is everything I want in a zombie thriller, finally a book that has not been tamed to a "young reader" level. The nightmare that Alex, the protagonist, goes through is just that, a horrible dream that can't possibly be real. We start off meeting Alex, who is a teenage girl with a brain tumor that just can't be cured. She goes off on a last hurrah, a hike through the mountains by herself. She runs into Jack, an elderly man, and his granddaughter Ellie, a very bratty eight-year old. Soon after meeting them, the EMP hits, giving you the first glimpse at just how gory this book is going to be. After a mere minute or two of throwing up blood, dead birds falling from the sky, crazed deer jumping off a cliff, and Jack dropping dead, Alex is left with Ellie. They move on from there to only more and more graphically disturbing scenes while they fight for survival in the mountains. They eventually meet Tom, who is on leave from the military and those three become the main characters of Ashes. With their combined knowledge of survival, they learn how to make in a world where everyone from puberty to senior citizen status has become a rabid zombies looking for some carnage.
The characters are extremely realistic. In no way are any of them overdone or unbelievable. Alex is such a strong heroine in this that you are envious of her ability to overlook everything bad in life. Yet she has such a dark past that you can't help be feel sorry for her that she just can't get a break. Tom seems to be that perfect person to run into during such a catastrophe that it just seems to be too good to be true. It is. Ellie is such a little brat that at times you want to smack her and at times you just want to hug her for having to go through this. The zombies are so perfectly gross. Ilsa does not hold back any detail from the blood bath they create. You are so horrified by every scene with them but you can't seem to look away from the book.
Needless to say the writing is great. For how repulsive the entire book is, it is so beautiful. That is talent. The descriptions are so vivid that you can't help be just as terrified as the characters are when they stumble across something. She plays up the senses a lot in this book. They play a significant role in the story so you are so enthralled in each scene. You literally smell the rotting meat and hearing the bones crunching and see every pus-pouring wound. Yeah...stomach-churning. But at the same time it is so elegantly composed that you will not put it down until you reach the last page.
And then you will throw it across the room when you realize that it will have a sequel....or maybe that was just me...But come on! Just a little more!? Please?
5 out of 5 stars. This book was everything I wanted The Forest of Hands and Teeth to be and more. Top of the bookshelf. Buy this book! ...or the zombies will eat you, and trust me it's not pretty.