Tag Archives: 2012 dystopian challenge

Review: Ashfall


Ashfall (Ashfall, #1)Title: Ashfall (Ashfall #1)

Author: Mike Mullin (debut) — Twitter | Website |

Pages: 466

Released: October 11, 20122

Genre: Post-apocalyptic, survival, realistic fiction

Source: Harris County Public Library (plan to buy!)

Goodreads Summary:  Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

In typical teenage style, Alex has fought with him mom and refused to go to visit family about two hours away. He won the argument and was left home alone for the weekend. However, before he can enjoy much of his short-lived freedom, his house is hit with a projectile from the super-volcano in Yellowstone. The whole world is turned upside down after this catastrophe, and Alex feels that he must be reunited with his family.

With the ground covered in inches of volcano ash, it is next to impossible for people to travel by vehicle or by foot. Luckily* Alex’s dad used to do some cross-country skiing, so he’s got the gear to set out on his journey to find his family.

Along the way, he meets people — some kind and helpful, others malicious and mean. When he’s stabbed by a psycho in the woods, Alex luckily* stumbles upon Darla and her mother, who nurse Alex back to health. Darla joins Alex on his journey, and together the two of them continue Alex’s quest to find his family.

*** *** ***

What I Liked:

Alex was very reliable as a narrator and likable as a protagonist. Mike Mullin did a great job of writing a character who really has an authentic teenage voice. Readers can also empathize with Alex’s situation…we’ve all heard a story of family or friends who parted way with harsh words or indifference, then never have a chance to make that right. I feel that is Alex’s fear and motivation in the book, to see his family and give his mom the hug he ignored and his sister (“the brat”) a little more recognition.

The description of the after-math of the volcano is truly terrifying because it is so realistic. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, “Oh my gosh…this could REALLY happen!!” In the first chapters, Alex is stuck inside with his neighbors. There is no electricity, and the sun/moon are blocked by ash in the sky, so they must function in pitch black. There is no cell reception. Thunder is deafening outside. They don’t know how others are faring. Alex is worried about his family. There is barely any food to eat. I’ve been through a hurricane, and that was bad enough…I can’t imagine something this bad!

I feel that all of Alex’s encounters with people along the way were realistic as well. It would be expected that crazy people would be out, trying to take advantage of the natural madness so they can wreck their own madness. It’s also believable that once trusting, kind people turn into suspicious hoarders who don’t trust people traveling. I sure wouldn’t be inviting people off the street into my house in that situation!

Darla has some serious girl-power! She’s a small town girl whose father taught her everything he knew about running a farm, and she is forced to keep the farm running after her father passes away. Without Darla, poor Alex would have died…a couple of times. She is used to providing and surviving, and it is refreshing to have a female character with some UMPH who doesn’t have to ask or wait for a guy to take charge of the situation.

What I Didn’t Like:

I put an * when I mentioned “luckily” in my summary, because without those two pieces in the story, Alex doesn’t survive. If he didn’t happen to have snow-skis in his garage, he doesn’t even get out of Cedar Falls. If he doesn’t meet Darla (with her survival knowledge) and her mom, he doesn’t survive his stab wound. If Darla hadn’t accompanied him on his trip after he leaves their house, he wouldn’t have survived his trip. I understand these are things that had to happen to have the story…they’re just so convenient.

*** *** ***

I could not put this down while reading. I couldn’t just abandon Alex and Darla out in the volcano without knowing they were safe! Mike Mulling did a great job with this book! I can’t wait to get a copy of Ashfall for my classroom library because I have a lot of boys who will be drawn in by this story.

The sequel, Ashen Winter, will be out October 16th, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Here is a fan-made book trailer for Ashfall:

Recommend for: high schoolers; people who like survival/adventure stories; boys!


Review: The Forsaken


The Forsaken (The Forsaken, #1)Title: The Forsaken

Author: Lisa M. Stasse (debut) – Twitter | Author site | Goodreads

Pages: 375

Released: July 10, 2012

Genre: Dystopian, Science-Fiction

Source: ARC Tour from Jillian Heise (plan to buy!)

Goodreads Summary: As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

Alenna has always felt like she doesn’t fit in with the people and world around her, but she is SURE that she doesn’t have any qualities that will cause her to fail the GPPT (Government Personality Profile Test). The test is a way for the government to screen for people who will grow up to be criminals and eliminate them from the U.N.A by sending them to  Prison Island Alpha.

Her school takes a field trip to a museum where they show a live feed from the island…I imagine a kind of “scared straight” tactic. When a boy from the island attempts to communicate with anyone watching, Alenna sees him and feels a “connection” with him (of course). She can’t help wondering what a handsome, well-adjusted looking person is doing on an island where everyone is supposed to be a maniac.

Imagine her surprise when she wakes up from her GPPT test to find herself abandoned on Prison Island Alpha. She finds a boy, David, dropped near-by, and the two of them attempt to find other people on the island. While Alenna thinks she was dropped on the island by mistake, David seems to have a different theory as to who is dropped on the island…and why.

They are attacked by a crew of boys with painted faces and sharpened teeth (think The Lord of the Flies), but Gadya (think Lost) saves them and takes them back to a camp with normal people. And guess who is at the camp? If you guessed pretty-boy-from-the-museum-feed…you’re right! Co-inky-dink!

Alenna tries her best to adapt to life at the camp and decides that instead of sitting by, she is going to take action and get some answers about why she was dropped on the island.

*** *** ***

What I Liked:

I love that Alenna didn’t sit around and whine and moan about why she ended up on the island, but rather jumped right in to the action and daily life in the blue sector camp. When she hears that an expedition is going to explore a way off the island, she volunteers to be part of the group, even having Gadya train her to fight before they leave.

The character of David was intriguing. I could never really tell what side he was on — was he a drone spy or did he truly want to join the camp? Was he telling the truth to Alenna when he said he knows what happened to her parents? Does he know the real reason seemingly sane teens are dumped on the island? DAVID, WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!

I also liked the fact that the author staged events so that Alenna had to depend on her own strength rather than on Liam. I believe that this truly allowed Alenna to grow as both an inhabitant on the island and a strong female character.

I was shocked when the identity of the Monk (who controls all of the brain-washed drones) is revealed. I thought it was someone completely different!

When I first saw the cover, I really had no idea how it fit in with the story, but after reading? The cover is ah-maze-ing!

What I Didn’t Like:

If I’m reading a book, I would like the character’s names to be easy to pronounce…even if the name is unique. Gadya? Not easy. Especially since the pronunciation (from a sarcastic character in the book) is Gah-DEE-yah. I just pronounced it “GAWD-yah” in my head because it rolled a bit easier…I didn’t have to stop and think about it.

I understand that there apparently MUST be a love interest in every dystopian story. But WHYYYY must there be insta-love between Alenna and Liam when they spent limited time together in the story? Why can’t they just liiike each other for a while and get to know one another without declaring their love? The story didn’t focus on their love story or develop it, which I liked…I wanted the story to focus on their expedition to find a way off the island, and that’s what I got. But don’t just throw around the words “I love you” without developing the relationship.

*** *** ***

I think this was a great dystopian, and I know that readers who like The Hunger Games and Divergent will like this read. I will definitely be buying a copy for my classroom and encouraging my librarian to order a copy for the library!

Enjoy the book trailer below!

Recommend for: dystopian lovers; high school; adventure