ASHES, by Ilsa J. Bick

Welcome back! Today we’re feeling extra lucky. Lo’s adorable sister (aka Lo’s Smister) has finally given in to our begging joined the Swoontini team(!!), and will be helping us bring you more Swoony Recs. So have a seat, grab a peppermint mocha, and let’s all settle in for some swoon. Today’s Rec: ASHES, by Ilsa J. Bick.
From the summary:

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.


Lo’s Smister Says: OK, just so everyone is clear from the beginning: Lo is the cute, funny, charming and witty sister. I’m often described as “nice”. Enough said. Don’t compare our writing because I will never in a million years measure up. {*cough-laughing fit* Lo would like to remind her gorgeous perfect-figured sister of the degree in philosophy, the nursing career with pediatric and adult cancer patients, the two adorable boys, Lo’s-Buddy-From-College husband, and the five books you read a week. Carry on.}

I like a swoony boy as much as the next girl (or woman in her 30’s. Whatever). I do, however, gravitate toward apocalyptic YA books, so there has to be a good, dark story along with the requisite beefcake(s). Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick, delivers both.

I don’t want to say TOO much about the book; I find it really annoying when reviews give so much detail that you are basically just reading to get past what you have been told will happen. Know, however, that this book is SCARY. [Christina says: WORD. So scary.] Different age groups are affected differently by the EMP. Teens and young adults essentially become feral; they are vicious, flesh-eating, frighteningly fast and not completely stupid. They are basically zombies who aren’t dead. Equally scary are some of the survivors. Cataclysmic disasters don’t bring out the best in many people.

Alex is the badass main character, one you can really respect. She is capable and independent and real. You understand where she is coming from, whether she is kicking ass, or becoming complacent in a stifling setting. And she knows how to handle a gun, unlike me. I’m quite clear that if I weren’t one of the people who dropped dead from the EMP, I would quickly have been some rabid teenager’s breakfast.

And there’s not one, but TWO swoony boys to choose from. Tom, the soldier, is handy to have around, but is also sweet, protective, and respectful of Alex and her abilities. They are comfortable and attached to one another. Chris is a mysterious character who Alex is drawn to despite her intention to maintain distance. Both have swoon appeal.

Three things I feel I should add:

1. As in many books of this genre, the science is a little iffy. As a nurse, I cringe regularly at some of the biological explanations books provide (don’t even get me started on Warm Bodies), but I give Ashes credit for trying to make it reasonable and believable.

2. The last third of the book has a different setting and pace than the first part of the book. It’s fascinating and definitely works, but I know some readers had difficulty with the shift.

3. The ending is a COMPLETE CLIFFHANGER. I love love loved it, but I think it really annoyed a lot of people. Just know that you will have to wait for subsequent books to fill in a lot of the blanks.

I found Ashes fascinating and disturbing and have spent a lot of time thinking about it. For me that’s the definition of a good book—one that sticks with you for some time after it’s over.


Christina: Agree agree agree (ps: isn’t she awesome?? I sort of love her). I got my copy from the awesome people at netgalley and went in totally blind, not realizing it was part of a series. It’s a pretty good sized book – goodreads has it listed as 480 pages – so you can imagine my face (please please, try and imagine my face) when I got to the last page on my nook and it. just. ended. AND it was at an AMAZING OMG WTF IS GOING ON moment, too. Naturally, I was a smidge miffed. BUT! would I still read it again? YES. Would I recommend it? ABSOLUTELY. Will I be standing in line at midnight and knocking down anyone who gets in my way of book 2? You better believe it.

ALSO: be sure to come back Monday when voting begins for our Swooniest Boy and Badass Chick of 2011, for your chance to win a KINDLE TOUCH!