BE YE WARNED, oh thou who liketh thy books to end and thy plotlines to be wrapped up between but two covers: this is a trilogy. And I realize that complaining about this is like coming out of the last Harry Potter and being like, You guuuuise, that movie was soooo looooong. Young adult post-apocalyptic/dystopia/thefutureisbadsomehow is going to = trilogy for the foreseeable future, and I’m clearly just going to have to lump it.
So. Alex has a brain tumor and also her parents are dead and you are surprisingly like, Ok, because she isn’t very WOE about it, and then also the Zap happens super-quick so you barely have time to register that she’s skipping town and her next chemo to go dump her parents’ ashes in Lake Lakerson (too lazy to look up actual lake).
So she’s in the middle of nowhere and something zaps, driving the animals mental and killing an oldster she’d just run into, but leaving his granddaughter and the granddaughter’s dead dad’s army service dog Mina alive (soooo many dead dads). Oh and also everything electronic doesn’t work now.
AND ALSO THERE ARE CANNIBALS. Because for some reason, the zap turned everyone in their teens and 20s into slavering people-eaters, only not everyone, because Alex has no desire to eat anyone, and she and the granddaughter soon run into a foxy young war vet (you know where this is going) and HE doesn’t try to nom their faces (except for when it goes where you knew it was going, and he and Alex metaphorically nom face).
And because it’s a trilogy I have to cut it slack for not EXPLAINING SOME SHIT, like why certain people zombify and other ones don’t (though I swear to God, if ‘Oh, you know *vague hand-wave* hormones’ is the sole and ultimate reason provided, I will cut a bitch), but it ends on a fairly gripping Semi-Mystery Explained With Horrifying Answer Tune In Next Week.
Which, fine, probably I will. This is why YA BadFutures get me, because even when they aren’t terribly good I am still curious. And Ashes didn’t blow me away with any one of the plot/characterization/writing trifecta, but none of it was inexcusably bad. There are some weird constructs. Like, people keep letting go of screams. She let go of a scream, he let go of a scream, the dog, I think, lets go of a scream. And I get that we release and unleash screams and that that doesn’t sound terribly weird, but ‘let go of’ does, and it never gets less hinky.
And I’m not a fan of Romances In Books That Have Other Things Going On (see: That time I read Divergent and thought it would have been ACES if not for the awkwardly-drawn-out attempt at sexual tension), because it’s so hard to keep coming up with reasons why these two people can’t be together, and because too often authors rely on Female Confusion And Naivety, which is my least-favorite trope. I mean, freaking nine-year-olds usually know that when they get that squirmy feeling it’s because maybe they like a boy. So STOP having your female heroines be like, Why is my heart racing? I must have the flu. We may be confused re: our deeper emotions and intentions, but we are all familiar with crushes by seventeen and we know what they feel like (ok so most of that was directed at Divergent, which got very Why does he treat me like a kid sister he has to protect, when I am all NO HE HAS ALREADY STROKED YOUR CHEEK SEVERAL TIMES WE ARE BEYOND THIS SISTER BUSINESS YOU NEED TO CONTRIVE NEW REASONS FOR THEM NOT TO BE MAKING OUT ALREADY. But Ashes does it a bit too, and it turns out I was too lazy to review Divergent. Sorry you got caught in the review-splatter, Ashes).
Because on the whole, Ashes is sort of good. Which is damning with faint praise, but sometimes you just need to kill an afternoon and better this than accidentally reading Elixir because you think it’ll be a romp. Alex is gritty and determined, even if she does break into valley girl every so often. ‘Yeah, like, fail.’ I concur, Alex. Like, fail indeed. Ellie, the granddaughter, is whiny and insufferable, as an abandoned eight-year-old SHOULD be, and if she talks like a fourteen-year-old, what do I know about children anyway (although I bet Ellie would know if she had a crush on a boy).