Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

A review of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, set in post-apocalyptic world without electricity and OMG READ IT ALREADY so Meghan can talk about it!

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

BOOK REPORT for Ashes (Ashes Book 1) by Ilsa J. Bick

Cover Story: Keep All the Lights On
BFF Charm: Hell Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Gross With a Double Shot of Adrenaline
Bonus Factors: Post-Apocalypse Done Right, Zombies, Patrick Ness, Dogs
Relationship Status: Going To the Mother-Effin' CHAPEL Already

Before I get started, y'all, let me SPAZZ THE HELL OUT because this book has given me the worst case of post-apocalyptic TEABS since The Knife of Never Letting Go. FOR SURE. I can't freaking WAIT until it comes out so everyone can read it and then come back and talk about it with me. Go now! Preorder it from your bookseller of choice! I'll wait. GAH. HURRY, because I can't say much in the interest of avoiding spoilage, and I'm not sure I can keep quiet much longer!!!

Cover Story: Keep All the Lights On

This cover is seriously creepy, yo. The dead eyes, staring and menacing -- I'm so damn glad I read this on my kindle because I'd be afraid to keep this in my room at night. I know that thing is going to come out and kill me in my sleep, and that is AWESOME.

The Deal:

Alex has terminal brain cancer, and she's had it with doctors and hospitals and waiting around to die, so she cuts school and heads to the wilderness, planning to take control of what's left of her life. But what's left of her life -- and everyone else's -- changes when a series of electro-magnetic pulses knock out all electronic devices and set off a chain of cataclysms killing billions. Those who aren't killed are either Spared ... or Changed. Into cannibals. Alex, saddled with an 8-year-old girl she meets on the trail, meets Tom, a young soldier out hunting during his leave from war, and they band together to fight to survive. While the EMP (probably) hasn't turned Alex into a cannibal zombie, she is changing into something. She just doesn't know what.

Also, because I'm so excited but don't want to spoil anything so won't add more, I leave you with this: YOU GUYS THERE IS SO MUCH CRAZY SHIT GOING DOWN IN THIS BOOK OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

BFF Charm: Hell Yes

I'd donate half MY brain as a transplant for Alex, although she'd definitely end up getting the short end of the stick because she is a BAMF of the highest degree. The girl dealt with some heavy shit before the Zap, what with her parents dying and then getting killer brain cancer, so she's already set to kick major ass when things just get worse. She's also really lonely and though she doesn't always know how to connect with others, she wants to. Alex isn't a Rambo-out-to-save-the-world-damn-the-torpedoes-get-the-hell-outta-my-way-little-girl type, and she's not a woe-is-me-I-never-asked-for-this-sucky-life whiner, either -- she does what she needs to do to survive, but she's capable of compassion for others. In short, she's THE COOLEST.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Alex has never had a boyfriend, a date, a kiss. For some reason, what with being an orphan and having terminal cancer, boys aren't showering her with long-stemmed roses and serenading her during marching band practice. I know, right? Jeez. But nothing gets the hormones going like the constant threat of being eaten alive, right? The swoon here -- and there's more than meets the eye -- is sweet, and tragic, and hot, and there's a definite promise of way, way more to come in the sequels.

Talky Talk: Gross With a Double Shot of Adrenaline

Y'all, by the second chapter of the book, I'd bitten off all my nails. I couldn't go more than 2 minutes without saying, "OH GROSS!" or "OH MY GOD" out loud and annoying my husband, who was trying to read something boring about some boring British army dude. The zombie cannibal shit is, well, ZOMBIE CANNIBAL SHIT and therefore extraordinarily G-R-O-S-S. And every chapter ends with some crazyballs cliffhanger like, "That was the last time they ever spoke" or or OR it combined the two:

I know this smell, Alex thought -- and then horror bloomed in her chest. Oh God, I know this. The stench was like summer, hot and torrid: a stink of tarry asphalt and roadkill bloated with decay. The reek was thick as fog, a plague of rotted flesh and squashed guts, so bad it balled in her mouth and coated her tongue. Her eyes inched left. And that's when she saw the man.

Bonus Factor: Post-Apocalypse Done Right

I'll be the first to admit nothing makes me pull a Fred Savage quicker than the words "post-apocalypse" and "trilogy" in the same sentence, but Bick is definitely the exception. The apocalypse was believable (EMPs? you say, but bear with me) because Bick put in enough explanation and detail to make it believable. A big flaw in a lot of dyspocalypse is the lack of plausible explanation -- or any explanation at all -- for the Big Disaster or the Fall of Man or whatever, not to mention all the little detail-schmetail consequences, but I bought everything Bick laid out. As for the trilogy, there's too much story to tell in one volume, and not because Bick needs a better editor.

Bonus Factor: Zombies

Did I mention there were zombies? Because there are zombies -- but not the normal, reanimated-dead-guy zombies -- and they are SCARY GROSS AWESOME.

Bonus Factor: Patrick Ness

I came away from this book with a lot of the same feelings I got from the Chaos Walking trilogy -- cold sweats, the shakes, fear of the dark, the yoozh. I'm not saying it's a knock-off at all, but Bick explores some of the same character archetypes and definitely brings the adrenaline -- the things that made me love Ness's novels.

Bonus Factor: Dogs

In the new world, dogs play a really important role, and Alex has an interesting connection to them. And I LOVE DOGS.

Casting Call:

Saoirse Ronan as Alex

Hailee Steinfeld would be great, but I'm actually partial to Saoirse Ronan. She can be pragmatic to the point of crazy-cold, but is vulnerable, too.

Relationship Status: going To the Mother-Effin' CHAPEL Already

Have I told you how much I love this book? I don't care if we just met, I don't care if there's still so much I don't know about it, we're already on our way to Las Vegas to a 24-hour Elvis chapel to make this shit OFFICIAL.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Egmont, via NetGalley. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Ashes will be released September 6.

Ashes is the FYA Book Club selection for September 2012!

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.