This is my second read of Ashes, which I decided to do after finding out the third one was out. I hadn't yet read the second, to be honest I kind of just read Ashes, moved onto other books and forgot about it, giving it three stars. Maybe it was the zombie thing.
But after watching three and a bit seasons of The Walking Dead and loving it, I figured I'd give the Ashes trilogy another go. So I bought the others and went back to book one. I really enjoyed this until, of course, the introduction of the inevitable love triangle (why oh why?).
I thought this book was set up really well. Alex is a seventeen-year-old whose had a run of bad luck. Her parents have died in an accident and then she finds out she has a tumour in her brain. She's decided to stop treatment and do things her way. So she cuts school and heads up into the wilderness where she used to camp with her parents, to scatter their ashes, say goodbye and work out what to do next. While she's up there, an electromagnetic pulse destroys almost everything. Of those who are left behind, the young have transformed into, for lack of a better word, zombies - but they aren't the typical mindless creatures you imagine when you hear that word.
The premise works well - I found that just enough was explained, or worked out, by the characters for me to be satisfied. A lot of the time, I find that dystopian books are set in the future where the world changing events have already happened. In Ashes we are experiencing it at the same time as the characters, not all who are willing to accept their plight. Alex, who was lackluster about life beforehand, has found a new fight in herself and a will to survive. I still have plenty of questions, but I'm hoping they will be answered as our characters find out more about what happened to the world they thought they knew.
Along the way, Alex is stuck with eight-year-old Ellie, whose grandfather drops dead when the pulse is emitted, and Tom, a young army guy on leave. Their trio is fighting together and for each other, and they bond quickly. But then they are ripped apart and Alex is on her own again, ending up in the only standing civilisation she has encountered so far, a barricaded town called Rule, where there is a semblance of normalcy (in case you're wondering this is where we encounter the love triangle). But Alex has learnt to question everything that is going on around her and her biggest problem is finding who she can trust - because everyone seems to have an agenda. And of course, how will she find Tom and Ellie?
]A note on the love triangle: Love triangles are perhaps my most hated plot device in YA literature. And even though I despise them, I think I can see how this could almost work. I personally like Tom. Chris is a funny character and I don't trust him. There's too much secret business going on in Rule and he is a part of it. Alex should be wary. But then, what if Tom is gone for good? Why shouldn't she move on and find some happiness? But you can tell its eating at her, she has to know if he's out there or not. And I think that fact is enough to say that maybe she felt more for Tom than even she knew. But when you're 17 and you're experiencing what just may be the apocalypse, how do you make those sorts of decisions? Just a few rambling thoughts on that note. Will be interesting to see where the author takes it from here.