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Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

In Mike Mullin's Ashfall, Alex's time home alone is cut short not by Joe Pesci, but by the apocalyptic eruption of a supervolacano.

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

BOOK REPORT for Ashfall (Ashfall Book 1) by Mike Mullin

Cover Story: Totes Legit
BFF Charm: Yay and Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Intensity In Ten Cities
Bonus Factors: Volcano! Taekwondo
Relationship Status: If An Apocalypse Happens, This Book Is The First Person I'm Looking Up

Cover Story: Totes Legit

This cover is stark and foreboding, so even though it doesn't completely accurately portray the story, it does convey the general feeling. Also? Look out! She's behind you!!! (Although I don't think that's the reaction they were going for.)

The Deal:

Alex refuses to go on a weekend getaway with his family to his uncle's goat farm. I mean, come on! It's a GOAT farm! He's almost 16, and that's plenty old enough to be allowed to stay home. It's not like he'll throw a wild party, anyway -- unless you count having a couple of dudes over to play WOW a wild party.

And then... the super volcano that lies beneath the geysers of Yellowstone National Park erupts. Which destroys the world as we know it. Like, the entire U.S. gets covered in feet of ash, blots out the sun, causes weird weather patterns kind of destroying the world. And then there's the humanity. Oh the humanity of it all! If you've ever spent any time in a Whole Foods parking lot on a Sunday afternoon, you won't be surprised by how quickly most of the human race devolves into thievery, violence, and cannibalism. Terrifying.

So anyway, because this is an apocalyptic story, there MUST be a traveling quest, (I mean, that's in the apocalypse handbook) so Alex has to set out to find his family, traversing unspeakable danger and STRESSING ME OUT!!!

BFF Charm: Yay and Yay

Alex is a really good kid. He used to be bullied, which led to his taking taekwondo, (which def comes in handy on the road) but one of the coolest things about this book is that Alex develops as a character as the book goes on! (I know, crazy.) So while he starts out as a good kid, he grows into an awesome guy I'd be proud to call my BFF.

And Darla!!!! This chick is a genius, she's tough as nails, and she doesn't take crap from anybody. So while if I met her before the apocalypse, I'd probably be way too intimidated by her aloof personality -- what with her engineering bicycle-powered mills and the fact that she can gut a rabbit and tan its hide -- but I'd definitely want to know her after the apocalypse. If she'd have me.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

This book is a minority, in the sense that it's a YA book with the romance told from the boy's perspective. While Alex is immediately drawn to Darla, she is much too busy with surviving to be interested in love -- at first -- and Mullin portrays a pretty realistic romance with a balance of boners and fluttery feelings. Also? Condoms. Hurray for condoms!

Talky Talk: Intensity In Ten Cities

I love a good dystopic adventure story as much as the next girl, but Michael Grant's not lying in his quote on the cover, because you guys, THIS COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN!!!! Seriously, I'll get into the cray-crayness that is volcanoes in the bonus factors, but first let me tell you how much I ATE while I was reading this book! I think I ordered pizza pretty much every night, and also baked cookies, because there are no pizzas and cookies after the apocalypse!!!! Sigh. Okay, I feel better now that I've gotten that out.

Mullin's story interweaves a contrast of extreme violence and action with painful stillness and solitude -- like when Alex is completely alone as he travels, or in the beginning, when he's staying with the neighbor couple and the sound of the erupting volcano is like bombs going off outside the door, for days -- a juxtaposition that I felt not only allowed for character development, but added to the stress-fuel in my belly and made the action sequences that much more powerful. There were some moments that made me think 'If I was a teenaged boy, I'd totally be pumping my fist in the air right about now,' which makes this book a perfect gateway book for the guys.

Bonus Factor: Volcano!

Ever since I saw that made-for-tv volcano disaster movie when I was a wee one in the late '70's, I have been TERRIFIED of volcanoes. I always hear stories about people's vacations where they went to Hawaii and took a helicopter over the volcano there, and I think ARE YOU CRAZY?!!! THAT'S A FREAKIN' VOLCANO!!!! IT COULD ERUPT AT ANY MOMENT. And so I probably will never vacation in Hawaii.

I assume Mullin really did his research about what would happen if the super volcano in Yellowstone erupted, but when I Googled it, the first bit of information I came upon was volcanologists saying that the volcano is DUE to erupt -- sometime in the next millennia, but still-- so I stopped researching, because it felt kind of like looking at pictures of snakes. Anyway, Mullin's tale feels realistic enough.

Bonus Factor: Taekwondo

So it turned out to be really good for Alex that he knew Taekwondo, in a couple of scenes where I was pretty much like, 'huh?' and 'no way!' but then I learned that Mike Mullin himself holds a black belt in Taekwondo, so I realized it would kind of be like me writing a book where this girl is really, really good at eating delicious food -- trust the author's field of expertise, y'all.

Casting Call:

He was so adorbs and hysterical in Attack the Block, I'd love to see what he could do as a lead.

Alex Esmail as Alex

And as for Darla? Let's see, who can be totally kick-ass and rough around the edges while also still being a vulnerable girl? There was only ever one option:

Saoirse Ronan as Darla

Relationship Status: If An Apocalypse Happens, This Book Is The First Person I'm Looking Up

Recent viewings of The Walking Dead have sparked many 'What would you do in an apocalypse?' conversations at my house. It's kind of like the 'What would you do if you won the lottery?' game, but with less giving and more stockpiling of tools and weapons you'd never consider owning in any other circumstance. Anyway, I think one of the most important things to do in case of an apocalypse is to surround yourself with like-minded people -- it's always the crazy assholes that ruin everything. This book shares my basic apocalypse-survival ideology, so if something catastrophic occurred I'd head straight to its house -- after stopping by the Home Depot to stock up on shovels, axes and nail guns.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Tanglewood Press via NetGalley. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Ashfall is in stores now.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.