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Review: Ashfall

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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!

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