Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullen

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

472 pages

Young Adult Fiction

October 2011

This is the first galley I've gotten from netGalley.  Here's the blurb from the website:

"Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don't realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying super volcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite.And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being alone for the weekend means freedom from his parents and the chance to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then Yellowstone erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek, searching for his family and finding help in Darla, his travel partner. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster."

This synopsis doesn't do the book justice.  It is the first of a planned trilogy which, I think, is going to be a huge hit with middle school students.  It should appeal to everyone who loved The Hunger Games.  The novel starts with a bang, literally, and Alex, the main character, is immediately in the middle of chaos and destruction.  He is not your average hero-type character, and he seems annoyingly immature.  By the end of the novel, he is a complex and interesting character because of what he goes through in the story.

As Alex travels from Idaho to find his parents, he is met with a lawless, post-apocalyptic society trying to cope with the aftermaths of the volcanic eruption.  He is alternately met with acts of selfless kindness and violent cruelty.  You never know, as a reader, what's going to happen next.

There are two quotes I really liked from Alex.  At the beginning of the story he says, "Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is a terrifying torture."  Nearer the end, he says, " ... the volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity.  No, we'd given that up on our own."  To me, Alex displays incredible growth of character to take the situation beyond his own needs to see how it impacted everyone.  Wow.

Darla, his female travelling partner, is an interesting character.  Alex meets her about 1/3 of the way through the book, when he is at his lowest and needs to be nursed back to health.  She is an intriguing character who also grows and changes in the story.

I don't want to give away too much more but, just a warning, there is violence in the story as well as a rape scene - it is not very vivid, but it is there, and talk of sexual activity with condom use.

This is probably one of the best YA books I've read since The Book Thief.  I am looking forward to the second novel!  I can enthusiastically give it 5 stars!


Mike Mullin said...

Thanks for spending some of your precious reading time with ASHFALL! Glad you enjoyed it. The sequel, ASHEN WINTER, will be published by Tanglewood Press in October 2012. I'm working through the third draft now.

BookGal said...

It was an amazing book ... thanks for visiting my blog. I plan to introduce my daughter's middle school English teacher to the book!